Aug 3, 2012Science and Technology
It's all in the Chemistry: Better Explosive Detection

Switching on a small UV-light the airport security agent silently chants to herself: “bright blue... Come on be bright blue.” She anxiously awaits a reaction from the wand that only moments ago passed around a cargo pallet waiting for loading. It’s bright blue; There is no bomb. Detecting explosives is a complicated and expensive problem that research from the University of Connecticut aims to solve with a novel chemical detection system. The system is the first of its kind that detects vapors from explosives using not advanced technology or well trained dogs but a visible chemical reaction. Within minutes of exposure to even ultra-trace explosive vapors the device’s fluorescent nanofiberous film changes color under UV light from a bright cyan to a deep navy. Capable of detecting as low as 0.1 parts per trillion, this new system is 1,000 times more sensitive than traditionally preferred well trained dogs. At the end of the day, the system is cheaper too: you don’t have to feed it.

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