High tech sensors may be able to “sniff out” explosives better than champion sniffer dogs, according to researchers at Tel Aviv University, whose research team may end up sending the canines back to the doghouse.
Using nanotechnology advances, a research team headed by Prof. Fernando Patolsky has developed a new device that it says is more reliable than sniffer dogs when it comes to detecting terrorists’ explosives, such as those in the recent “cargo bomb” sent from Al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen to the United States.
The research already has attracted the attention of security companies. The American company Nanergy Inc. has developed a prototype based on the patent, and is already in contact with potential partners to develop explosives sensors for the commercial market.
The sensor is capable of detecting numerous types of explosives and is especially effective against TNT, according to Prof. Patolsky.
Existing methods and devices used to trace the explosive have the drawbacks of high cost, lengthy decoding times, size, and a need for expert analyses. “There is a need for a small, inexpensive, handheld instrument capable of detecting explosives quickly, reliably and efficiently,” the professor explains.
The device is made from an array of silicon nanowires, coated with a compound that binds to explosives to form an electronic device – a nanotransistor. In order to enhance the chips’ sensitivity even further, the scientists developed each one with 200 individual sensors that work in harmony to detect different kinds of explosives with an unprecedented degree of reliability, efficiency and speed.
Other major advantages of the new sensor are that it can be carried from place to place by hand, and it is capable of detecting explosives at a distance. It can be mounted on a wall, with no need to bring it into contact with the item being checked.
Unlike other explosives sensors, it enables definitive identification of the explosive that it has detected. To date, the device has not had a single detection error.