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UCSB sensor sniffs explosives through microfluidics, might replace Rover at the airport (video)

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 22, 2012
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We're sure that most sniffer dogs would rather be playing fetch than hunting for bombs in luggage. If UC Santa Barbara has its way with a new sensor, those canines will have a lot more free time on their hands. The device manages a snout-like sensitivity by concentrating molecules in microfluidic channels whose nanoparticles boost any spectral signatures when they're hit by a laser spectrometer. Although the main technology fits into a small chip, it can detect vapors from explosives and other materials at a level of one part per billion or better; that's enough to put those pups out of work. To that end, the university is very much bent on commercializing its efforts and has already licensed the method to SpectraFluidics. We may see the technology first on the battlefield when the research involves funding from DARPA and the US Army, but it's no big stretch to imagine the sensor checking for drugs and explosives at the airport -- without ever needing a kibble break.



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