Mention the words metal detector and you'll get completely different reactions from different people. For instance, some people think of combing a beach in search of coins or buried treasure. Other people think of airport security, or the handheld scanners at a concert or sporting event.


Photo courtesy Bounty Hunter
Metal detectors can provide hours of enjoyment when you use them to search for buried treasure.

The fact is that all of these scenarios are valid. Metal-detector technology is a huge part of our lives, with a range of uses that spans from leisure to work to safety. The metal detectors in airports, office buildings, schools, government agencies and prisons help ensure that no one is bringing a weapon onto the premises. Consumer-oriented metal detectors provide millions of people around the world with an opportunity to discover hidden treasures (along with lots of junk).

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, you'll learn about metal detectors and the various technologies they use. Our focus will be on consumer metal detectors, but most of the information also applies to mounted detection systems, like the ones used in airports, as well as handheld security scanners.