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Super-sensitive chip can sniff out bombs from 16 feet away

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 24, 2014
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Let's face it: the theatrical security procedures at airports aren't going away any time soon. However, they might just get more tolerable if a team of Israeli researchers bring a new, extremely sensitive bomb detection chip to an inspection line near you. The prototype sniffs for explosives by using groups of nano-scale transistors that react to tiny electrical changes when certain chemicals pass by. And we do mean tiny -- the chip can raise alarms if there are just a few molecules found out of 1,000 trillion. For those not keeping score, previous techniques will 'only' raise a red flag in the molecules per billion range.

The result is a bomb detector that can work in some very, very challenging circumstances. Depending on the material, the component can recognize explosives from as far as 16 feet away; inspectors wouldn't have to invade your personal space just to give you the all-clear. It can also ferret out the offending substances even when the environment is "highly contaminated" by cigarette smoke. What you're seeing is very early, and there's no definite timetable for a finished product. Nevertheless, it suggests that you'll eventually have one less hassle to deal with when rushing to board a flight.

[Image credit: David Paul Morris via Getty Images]

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