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Electronic explosive-detecting sensor out-sniffs sniffer dogs

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November 11, 2010

Tel Aviv University's explosive-detecting sensor (Image: AFTAU)

Tel Aviv University's explosive-detecting sensor (Image: AFTAU)

The recent Yemeni bomb threat has only highlighted the need for quick, accurate ways of detecting explosives. With their excellent sense of smell and the ability to discern individual scents, even when they’re combined or masked by other odors, this task is usually given to man’s best friend. But training these animals can be expensive and good sniffer dogs can be hard to find. Scientists have now developed an electronic sensor they say is more sensitive and more reliable at detecting explosives than any sniffer dog.

The new sensor, developed by scientists at Tel Aviv University, is able to detect multiple kinds of explosives and is especially effective at detecting TNT – an explosive that currently requires equipment that is high cost, has lengthy decoding times, is large and needs expert analysis to be detected.

"There is a need for a small, inexpensive, handheld instrument capable of detecting explosives quickly, reliably and efficiently," says lead researcher Prof. Fernando Patolsky of Tel Aviv University's Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Chemistry.

The device is made from an array of silicon nanowires, coated with a compound that binds to explosives to form a nanotransistor. To enhance the device’s sensitivity, the scientists developed each one with 200 individual sensors that work together to detect different kinds of explosives with what the scientists say is an unprecedented degree of reliability, efficiency and speed.

In addition to being portable, the device is also capable of detecting explosives at a distance. This means it can be mounted on a wall, with no need to bring it into contact with the item being checked. Also, unlike other explosives sensors, the device provides a definitive identification of the explosive that it has detected. Its developers say that, to date, the device has not produced a single detection error.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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2 Comments

THIS is the kind of technology that TSA should be implementing instead of xrays and uncomfortable physical searches!!!

Will, the tink
23rd November, 2010 @ 11:47 am PST

i want the details of this prjct,i am gnging to do smlr prjct to this,

can u ppl help me....

Shanmukha Teja Varma
9th March, 2013 @ 10:25 am PST
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