Baggage X-ray machine

 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Research adventure
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Since the 1970s, the baggage at airports is scanned for hidden weapons, the reason being an increase in international crime and the fact that aeroplanes are at high risk in the event of an attack. It would, however, be much too time-consuming to control each item of baggage individually. Special scanners, like the HI Scan PS5030 baggage X-ray machine on exhibit at the Technisches Museum Wien, make it possible to view the content of the baggage without opening it.

These devices use X-rays, which are invisible to the human eye. The rays were discovered accidentally in 1895 by the German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. During an experiment with a so-called gas discharge tube, he noticed that an unknown form of radiation passed through a lightproof cover and caused a fluorescent effect on a screen. It was soon clear to him that he had made a revolutionary discovery: the rays passed through objects which completely blocked off visible light. This was sensational, especially for the medical sector: it was now possible to look inside the human body without injuring it!

Soon afterwards, the mysterious rays were also used to examine other objects such as crystals or old paintings. The scanners at the airports would also not work without Röntgen's discovery. Not only do they enable a view of the inside, a special colour coding also makes it possible for the trained eye to see what the objects are actually made of.

In our exhibition "Abenteuer Forschung" (The Adventure of Science), you too have the opportunity to experience this kind of baggage scanning: if you join us on a guided tour, we will scan your bag or any other object of your choice with the baggage scanner.

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