From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published November 11, 2010 09:37 AM

New Bomb-Sniffing Machine Able to Replace Dog

Dogs have been used by the humans for many years. Their greatest tool, which has been prized by authorities in particular, is their incredibly sensitive nose. Some experts believe that their sense of smell is 100,000 times better than that of humans. However, their reputation as bomb-sniffers is now being put to the test with the development of a new electronic sensor that is more reliable at detecting explosives.


The sensor, developed at Tel Aviv University by Professor Fernando Patolsky, uses nanotechnology to achieve its high level of precision. It can detect a variety of explosives types, especially TNT. Typically, machines that are used to trace the explosive are costly, take a long time, are bulky, and require expert analysis. The new machine developed by Patolsky is inexpensive, quick, easy, and can be held by hand.

But can anything beat the natural ability of dogs to detect smells? Unlike humans, the canine's primary sense is through the nose. Their olfactory bulb is forty times bigger than those of humans relative to brain size. They can not only smell, but differentiate odors at a concentration almost 100 million times lower than a human can. The most sensitive bloodhound has roughly 300 million olfactory receptors. But according to the researchers, even the greatest dog sniffer on earth could not beet the machine.

The sensor uses silicon nanowires which are coated with a material that binds to explosives particles in the air. The wires are formed into a nano-transistors, each of which are equipped with 200 individual sensors. The sensors work in unison to detect the explosives at a high degree of accuracy.

The greatest advantage is the size of the machine. It can be held by hand to analyze whatever cargo or passenger is being inspected. It can also detect explosives from a distance. A would-be terrorist would never know it was even there. Then it can quickly display information on the specific type of explosive. So far, it has not committed any errors in detection.

This technology can revolutionize the security screening process. Companies and agencies that deal with security such as the TSA in the United States or private security firms are taking notice. One company, Nanergy Inc. is already working on production of this device based on the patent developed at the University of Tel Aviv. Researchers there are working on making the sensors able to detect things like biological toxins like anthrax or other chemical threats. Once fully developed, this technology can have a wide range of applications from security to medicine.

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