Tel Aviv University researchers have built a groundbreaking sensor that detects miniscule concentrations of hazardous materials in the air. Security forces worldwide rely on sophisticated equipment, trained personnel, and detection dogs to safeguard airports and other public areas against terrorist attacks. A revolutionary new electronic chip with nano-sized chemical sensors is about to make their job much easier. The groundbreaking nanotechnology-inspired sensor, devised by Prof. Fernando Patolsky of Tel Aviv University‘s School of Chemistry and Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and developed by the Herzliya company Tracense, picks up the scent of explosives molecules better than a detection dog’s nose.
Existing explosives sensors are expensive, bulky and require expert interpretation of the findings. In contrast, the new sensor is mobile, inexpensive, and identifies in real time — and with great accuracy — explosives in the air at concentrations as low as a few molecules per 1,000 trillion.
“Using a single tiny chip that consists of hundreds of supersensitive sensors, we can detect ultra low traces of extremely volatile explosives in air samples, and clearly fingerprint and differentiate them from other non-hazardous materials,” said Prof. Patolsky, a top researcher in the field of nanotechnology. “In real time, it detects small molecular species in air down to concentrations of parts-per-quadrillion, which is four to five orders of magnitude more sensitive than any existing technological method, and two to three orders of magnitude more sensitive than a dog’s nose. “This chip can also detect improvised explosives, such as TATP (triacetone triperoxide), used in suicide bombing attacks in Israel and abroad,” Prof. Patolsky added.
Research on the sensor was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.