Researchers at UC Berkeley may be putting bomb-sniffing dogs out of a job. The researchers have developed laser sensors that can detect explosives.
Mechanical engineering professor Xiang Zhang was the head of the team which was able to create these lasers. The lasers are able to pick up "incredibly minute concentrations of explosives," and can even detect the type of explosive as well.
The research team tested their laser sensors with a variety of different explosives, and were able to detect even airborne chemicals with very low concentrations. They team was able to determine their sensor can pick up DNT at 0.67 parts per billion (One part per billion is comparable to one blade of grass in a football field.) For ammonium nitrate, it was at 0.4 PPB and nitrobenzene at 7.2 PPB.
Ren-Min Ma, one of the leaders of the research team, said "Our technology could lead to a bomb-detecting chip for a handheld device that can detect the tiny-trace vapor in the air of the explosive’s small molecules."
These scientists believe their new laser technology is more effective than existing explosive detection methods, including bomb-sniffing dogs. Dogs are not only expensive to train, but just as any dog would, they get tired. They also can get distracted, and of course, they need potty breaks. (Plus, if a bomb does go off, no dogs get hurt.) The research team also believes their system is more effective than swabbing at airports. The laser may also be used for detecting unexploded land mines, which kill between 15,000 and 20,000 people every year.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.