Prototype sensor can detect multiple explosives with a single test
Researchers at the University CollegeLondon (UCL) have developed a new sensor with the ability tosimultaneously detect five commonly-used explosives. Currently in theprototype stages, the device could one day be used to improvesecurity in public spaces.
We've seen some impressive technologiesemerge for the detection of explosive materials over the years, including developments like a simple solutions for detecting shoe bombs and evenexplosives-detecting stickers. Now, a team of UCL researchers islooking to streamline the process, building a proof-of-concept sensorthat's capable of quickly identifying numerous explosives at once.
The sensor is designed to detectexplosives commonly used for both industrial and military purposes,such as DNT, which is commonly found in landmines, and both RDX andPETN – compounds used in recent terror plots. In the future it could beused in multiple scenarios, from testing waste water from munitionsfactories to finding evidence of terrorism plots.
It makes use of quantum dots –miniscule light-emitting particles designed to react to theexplosives. Each of the five different materials bind to the quantumdots, quenching emitted light to different degrees. The sensor thenanalyzes the light, identifying the fingerprint of each explosive compound,even if several are present at one time.
"Our sensor is a significant stepforward for multiple explosives detection. Current methods can belaborious and require expensive detection," says senior paperauthor Professor Ivan Parkin. "Current methods can be laborious andrequire expensive equipment but our test is designed to beinexpensive, fast and use a much smaller volume of sample thanpreviously possible."
Looking forward, the team will work toimprove the technology, and plans to conduct field trials, performingblind tests using contaminated waste water.
The researchers published a paper detailingthe technology in the journal ACS Nano.