Air travellers may soon be able to bring liquids and gels back onto airliners thanks to new technology that can detect potentially explosive substances.

According to a working paper submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization by Australia, Canada and the United States, new screening machines will be able to tell the difference between harmless liquids and those that can be used in explosives.

The technology will be able to detect the contents of a bottle using a laser or sonic scanner, aviation expert Joseph Yeremian told CTV Canada AM on Thursday.

Yeremian, who is president of Thermodyne Engineering, a Toronto-based consulting engineering firm, said if the testing of the new screening machines is successful, passengers can potentially bring containers of items like toothpaste and lotions of any size with them on their carry-on luggage.

Since 2006, only 100-millilitre containers have been allowed in passengers’ carry-on luggage. Exceptions include medicine and baby formula.

The ban on liquids, gels and aerosols was introduced on commercial planes in 2006 following a foiled terror plot to sneak liquid explosives on a number of transatlantic flights departing from London’s Heathrow airport.

Yeremian said the ban was necessary and was the "right thing to do."

"There are many, many liquids that are exactly like water and they are very volatile, they evaporate very quickly and they very explosive," he said.

Canada's federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday she expects airports to start loosening the rules on select items starting in January.

Speaking at a transportation meeting in Winnipeg, Raitt said the ban was always meant to be a temporary measure.

Airport authorities in Canada, U.S., Europe and Australia plan to start testing the new scanners by Jan. 31, 2014.

The first phase will involve screening items like baby food, as well as liquids and gels over 100 ml packed in sealed, clear plastic bags.

If the scanners prove to be successful, the liquids ban could eventually be lifted altogether.

The restrictions were put in place after authorities in Britain foiled a terror plot to take down flights using liquid-based explosives.

Aviation security expert Matt Sheehy told CTV Toronto that the new machines are still in the testing phase and it could be two to three years before they’re used in airports.