Nano-based Chip Detects Explosives

Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is ready with a prototype for a chemical “sniffer system” for the detection of criminal substances like narcotics and explosivesDogs have an eminent sense of smell. Their snouts use a specific sniffing technique which almost grabs hold of scents. Elephants’ snouts are even better than those of dogs, but obviously these are attached to elephants which are difficult to carry around. Consequently, today dogs are employed to track narcotics, money and explosives. Sometimes dogs are able to sense explosives in very small doses, however, they are not always 100 percent reliable as they are also sensitive to changes in their surroundings. A technological solution is therefore to be preferred in the tracking of stocks of narcotics or explosive materials.

Researchers at DTU have developed the prototype of a chip able to sniff molecular structures from a number of known substances. A special camera visualises the results from the chip (with 24 megapixels per 15 second) and newly developed software interprets these images according to changes in colour (i.e. the difference between two pictures), caused by the impact of the scents in the air.

We have conducted experiments by sucking air from smaller containers like e.g. handbags or pieces of luggage and from large industrial sized containers typically used for smuggling. In both cases, we arrived at promising results”, says Mogens Havsteen Jakobsen, Senior Researcher at DTU Nanotech.

By using the so-called colorimetric sensing technique, the artificial nose is able to detect different substances like explosives, narcotics, the ripeness of cheese, rotten meat and fish, the quality of wine and coffee or bad indoor climate of a room.

The project has specifically targeted explosives which are a growing safety risk in our society. The Chemical Division of the Danish Emergency Management Agency has been an important collaborator because they are authorised to produce and handle explosives. “We have test laboratories which have been made available during the course of the project”, says Jesper Mogensen, civil engineer and analysis chemist at the Chemical Division and therefore used to handling explosives.

There will be some evident advantages in using a technology such as CRIM-TRACK, compared to the instruments available today,” Jesper Mogensen says. “Firstly, the preparation time is short in that what you largely need to do is switch on the tracker and use it. This is valuable time saved. Secondly and perhaps the most important advantage is the fact that the EOD (the Explosive Ordnance Disposal) does not need to collect a sample. Today when we are called to a ransacking if e.g. a kilo of white powder has been found and we have to analyse its chemistry by way of GC-MS (i.e. gas chromatography-mass spectrometry), a sample of the substance must be collected on a fibre. In other words, it is necessary to collect physically a sample with all the risks this entails. With DTU’s sniffer system, it is possible to collect samples in the air. It sniffs for the drug much like a dog and indicates whether there are any explosives or not. This will increase the safety of our EOD”.


The Biggest Clone Factory Built In China

The world’s largest animal cloning factory is under construction in China, with plans to churn out dogs, horses and up to a million beef cattle a year. The 200-million-yuan ($31-million) facility will include cloning laboratories and a gene bank, the official Xinhua news agency reported. It is being set up by Chinese biotechnology firm Boyalife and South Korea’s Sooam Biotech—whose founder was embroiled in controversy a decade ago over claims to have cloned human embryos—along with two Chinese research institutions. It will develop animals such as pet and police dogs, racehorses and cows, to be sold on the open market on an industrial scale. The factory in the northern port of Tianjin is set to start production next year, with initial capacity of 100,000 cattle embryos a year, growing to one million, Xinhua cited Boyalife chairman Xu Xiaochun as saying.

cloned animals

Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand,” he said. But social media users expressed scepticism over consumer appetite for cloned meat, pointing out that the plant will be near the site of chemical explosions that killed at least 165 people in August, and that China is plagued with food safety scandals. “Is this meat going to be sold in South Korea or China? If in China, please make our leaders eat it first,” said one user.


Sniffing Out Explosives, Better Than Trained Dogs

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.
explosive detective dog
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.