Navigation Links
Sniffing out shoe bombs: A new and simple sensor for explosive chemicals

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. University of Illinois chemists have developed a simple sensor to detect an explosive used in shoe bombs. It could lead to inexpensive, easy-to-use devices for luggage and passenger screening at airports and elsewhere.

Triacetone triperoxide (TATP) is a high-powered explosive that in recent years has been used in several bombing attempts. TATP is easy to prepare from readily available components and has been difficult to detect. It defies most standard methods of chemical sensing: It doesn't fluoresce, absorb ultraviolet light or readily ionize.

The few methods available to screen for TATP aren't feasible for on-the-ground use in airports, as they require large, expensive equipment, extensive sample preparation, or relatively high concentrations of TATP in solid or liquid form. There is no simple way to detect TATP vapor.

Kenneth Suslick, the Schmidt Professor of Chemistry at the U. of I., and postdoctoral researcher Hengwei Lin have developed a colorimetric sensor array that can quantitatively detect even very low levels of TATP vapor down to a mere 2 parts per billion. They wrote about their findings in an article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

To create the sensor array, the researchers print a series of 16 tiny colored dots each a different pigment on an inert plastic film. A solid acid catalyst breaks down TATP into detectable components that cause the pigments to change color, like litmus paper.

Each pigment changes colors depending on the concentration of TATP in the air. The array is digitally imaged with an ordinary flatbed scanner or an inexpensive electronic camera before and after exposure to the air.

"Imagine a polka-dotted postage stamp sensor that can sniff out the shoe-bomber explosive simply by using a digital camera to measure the changing colors of the sensor's spots," Suslick said. "The pattern of the color change is a unique molecular fingerprint for TATP at any given concentration and we can identify it in a matter of seconds."

The array is uniquely sensitive to TATP. Unlike many other chemical sensors, Suslick and Lin's array is unaffected by changes in humidity or exposure to other chemicals, such as personal hygiene products or laundry detergents. It also has a long shelf life, so airport security and other users can keep a supply on hand.

In addition to demonstrating their sensing technique with an ordinary flatbed scanner, the researchers also developed a functional prototype hand-held device. The portable instrument, designed to easily screen luggage or shoes, uses inexpensive white LED illumination and an ordinary digital camera similar to a cell-phone camera.

"The hand-held device makes the whole process portable, sensitive, fast and inexpensive," Suslick said. The hand-held sensor now is being commercialized by iSense, a senor manufacturer based in Palo Alto, Calif.

"One of the nice things about this technology is that it uses components that are readily available and relatively inexpensive," said David Balshaw, Ph.D. program administrator at National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which supported the project.


Contact: Liz Ahlberg
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related biology news :

1. Sniffing out a better chemical sensor
2. Diversity of trees in Ecuadors Amazon rainforest defies simple explanation
3. Simple chemical procedure augments therapeutic potential of stem cells
4. A simple fusion to jump-start evolution
5. Artificial cells, simple model for complex structure
6. Simple test helps predict heart attack risk
7. Pitt-led researchers create quick, simple fluorescent detector for TB
8. Author says challenging simple concepts can save planet
9. Simple drug treatment may prevent nicotine-induced SIDS: Study
10. New blood tests promise simple, cost-effective diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancers
11. Scientists take step toward simple and portable tuberculosis tests for developing world
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/1/2016)... June 1, 2016 Favorable Government ... Administration and Criminal Identification to Boost Global Biometrics System ... released TechSci Research report, " Global Biometrics Market ... Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", the global biometrics ... 2021, on account of growing security concerns across various ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... , May 12, 2016 ... just published the overview results from the Q1 wave ... the recent wave was consumers, receptivity to a program ... data with a health insurance company. "We ... to share," says Michael LaColla , CEO of ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... 28, 2016 First quarter 2016:   ... compared with the first quarter of 2015 The gross ... M (loss: 18.8) and the operating margin was 40% (-13) ... Cash flow from operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , ... is unchanged, SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The operating margin for ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... /PRNewswire/ - BIOREM Inc. (TSX-V: BRM) ("Biorem" or "the Company") ... shareholders, Clean Technology Fund I, LP and Clean Technology ... based venture capital funds which together hold approximately 59% ... diluted, as converted basis), that they have entered into ... holdings in Biorem to TUS Holdings Co. Ltd. ("TUS") ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... Newly created ... and solutions to the healthcare market. The company's primary focus is on new ... and marketing strategies that are necessary to help companies efficiently bring their products ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range of subjects ... the two entities said Poloz. Speaking at a ... , he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which ... "In certain areas ... have common economic goals, why not sit down and address ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in clinical research patient ... and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio revisits the hurdle ... and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how patients receive and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: