Nanotech Sensors Detects Explosive Better than Bomb Dogs
Chemical sensors are very valuable tools for many situations, including protecting against bombs at airports and other public areas. Sometimes the sensors are expensive, manmade devices, requiring well-trained users, and other times trained dogs are used. Researchers at Tel Aviv University though have developed a new sensor that is cheap and easy to operate, while being significantly better than the alternatives.
The device the researchers built is a tiny chip with clusters of transistors on it. These transistors have been designed so that when a single molecule contacts them, it binds to them and affects their conductance. This change makes it possible to detect and even identify the molecule caught from the air, all in real-time. The chip is so sensitive to the molecules that it can detect some in concentrations approaching parts-per-quadrillion, which is orders of magnitude better than other chemical sensors, and even dogs noses.
Thus far the prototype sensor has been tested against commercial blasting and military explosives, as well as some improvised explosive materials. By being faster, cheaper, and giving users the ability to identify detected chemicals, this sensor could go a long way to keeping people safe.