Heathrow plans to install 3D security equipment in the next three years to scan bags in more detail.

The move is expected to cut queues in terminals by permitting liquids and laptops to be carried through inside hand luggage.

It will also reduce the amount of plastic used because passengers will not have to place 100ml containers in a separate bag to be individually scanned.

The airport, which handles 80.6 million passengers a year, is also preparing to introduce the new speedier security screening process.

Heathrow is spending £50 million on the computer tomography (CT) security scanners.

The 3D equipment uses the same technology as CT scanners in hospitals and will eventually replace traditional x-ray scanners. The airport tested the first CT scanners in 2017 and plans to introduce them across its terminals by 2022.

The technology provides a clear picture of a bag’s contents with detailed 3D images easily rotated and dissected by staff.

Passengers have been required to remove all liquids from their hand luggage since August 2006, in response to a plot to blow up transatlantic jets using explosive material hidden in soft drinks bottles. It also led to the ban on containers holding more than 100ml of liquid.

Liquids must now be carried in containers in a transparent plastic bag holding no more than a litre in total.

Heathrow said that the 100ml restriction would remain unchanged after the introduction of the new scanners, but passengers would no longer need to remove the containers from their hand luggage.

The technology “will be rolled out gradually over the course of the next few years”, the airport said.

CT scanners have already been introduced at airports in the US and part of mainland Europe but Heathrow’s plan is thought to represent the largest installation in the UK.

Heathrow is the first UK airport to trial the technology and is working with the Department for Transport to help other UK airports as they look to begin trials of their own in the coming months.

Chief operating officer Chris Garton said: “Heathrow has a proud history of investing in making every journey better for our customers and that’s why we’re delighted to be rolling out our new 3D security screening machines.

“This cutting-edge equipment will not only keep the airport safe with the latest technology but will also mean that our future passengers can keep their focus on getting on with their journeys and spend less time preparing for security screening.”

Aviation minster Baroness Vere said: “Passenger safety remains our top priority and this programme clearly shows the huge importance we place on security.

“This innovative new equipment will ensure Heathrow continues to provide a safe and smooth travel experience for passengers, as we look to roll out this new screening technology at airports across the country.”

The move came as the government committed to funding worth up to £1 million to enable pioneering aviation security solutions.

It is part of a commitment to further strengthen aviation security and support the development of solutions that could lead to increased security effectiveness, shorter queues and faster more efficient screening at airports.

The Future Aviation Security Solutions initiative is designed to encourage the development of innovative technology to deliver a “step change” in aviation security.