The leading US anti-terrorism agency has launched an urgent call for liquid explosive screening devices that could be selected for use in US airports by October.

The call for tender for bottle screening devices capable of detecting explosives was raised in light of the foiled terror plot to blow up around 10 transatlantic airliners originating in London this month that security services believe would have used bombs using volatile fluids.

The science and technology directorate of the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) issued a request for information on Monday. The specifications are aimed at any existing manufacturer of clinical, laboratory or commercial units and the urgency of the request is illustrated by the short deadline that requires manufacturers to issue a response by 12 September, a winner announced by the end of September and have the equipment ready for testing one month from award of contract. Once awarded, any device could be in service by early next year, it is anticipated. 

The search is for a device that can "detect and distinguish explosive and flammable liquids from benign liquids" such as drinks, lotions and contact lens solutions. The DHS expects airports to be fitted with these devices, once acquired, and integrated at passenger security checkpoints. The minimum through rate is 200 bottles per minute, the specification document continues.

The US government says several projects looking into this subject are already in train and adds that it expects technology providers to team together.