It doesn’t have a nose of its own, but the small, portable sensor developed by a research team at Tel Aviv University (TAU) has not had a single detection error, as it correctly identified multiple types of explosives in every lab test administered to date.
Based on recent advances in nanotechnology, the device is made from an array of silicon nanowires coated with a compound that binds to explosives to form an electronic nanotransistor.
Security companies and fellow scientists are already paying special attention to the invention developed by lead researcher Prof. Fernando Patolsky and his team from TAU’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Chemistry.
In addition to its perfect detection record for explosives – including those used in the recent Yemeni bomb threat – in the future the sensor may also be used to detect toxins and other biological threats, such as anthrax, cholera or botulinum, the team reports. And looking beyond national security, the sensor offers attractive applications in the medical field.
Definitive explosive ID
Patolsky notes that the sensor is especially effective at detecting TNT. 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,” he says.