Electronic sensor better than sniffer dogs at detecting bombs

Scientists developed a new electric sensor and is more reliable at detecting explosives than any sniffer dog.

Updated: Nov 11, 2010, 13:16 PM IST

Washington: Tel Aviv University scientists have developed a new electric sensor that is small, portable, and is more sensitive and reliable at detecting explosives than any sniffer dog.

Prof. Fernando Patolsky said the sensor is especially effective at detecting TNT.

However, drawbacks include 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," said Patolsky.

The device is made from an array of silicon nanowires, coated with a compound that binds to explosives to form an electronic device — a nanotransistor.

It can be mounted on a wall, with no need to bring it into contact with the item being checked. And unlike other explosives sensors, it enables definitive identification of the explosive that it has detected. To date, the device has not had a single detection error.

Such sensors may be used to detect not only explosives, but also biological toxins and threats, such as anthrax, cholera or botulinum. They could be used in medicine too.

The study has been published in Angewandte Chemie.