CT, or computed tomography, scans are to x-rays what 3D movies are to classic 2D flicks. But instead of being just some gimmick to lure patrons into a theater, CT scans result in 3D models that let doctors study internal medical conditions in amazing detail. But why stop there? Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have now built a monstrous CT scanner that can scan entire cars and even shipping containers.

The obvious use for such a machine is to make it nearly impossible for anyone to smuggle anything across a border crossing. The internals of a vehicle or a shipping container, including every last hiding spot, would be completely exposed and laid bare to investigators. But while many border crossings now have permanent drive-through x-ray machines, current CT scan technology requires the use of a giant turntable to spin a vehicle, making them a little impractical as permanent border installations right now.


Where the giant scanner is proving useful is with crash test vehicles. Footage of the actual collision can give researchers plenty of data about how a vehicle performs, but the inside of a mangled wreck reveals even more details—they're just hard to get to. So a CT scan of a post-crash vehicle would give researchers an unprecedented look at the internal damage, without having to rip it apart and compromise the data. Now if they only made them small enough to scan cereal boxes at the grocery store for the best prizes. [Fraunhofer Institute]