Sniffer dogs with snouts out of joint
28 June 2006
Highly trained sniffer dogs used to detect explosives could have their snouts put out of joint by pioneering chemical research.
The developments, reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Journal of Materials Chemistry, tell how unique 'fluorescent' polymers could be used to uncover the explosive Trinitrotoluene - or TNT - popular in bomb use.
The polymers - which glow blue or green when put in ultraviolet light - grow dimmer if TNT is present.
The effect occurs at such low levels of TNT that it would be possible to detect the tiny amounts left behind in the fingerprints of a bomb maker.
Researchers William Trogler and Sarah Toal, from the University of California, said the system must be made cheaper and more sensitive before it can replace the dependable sniffer dog in security operations.
Professor Trogler said: "It is humbling for researchers that the dog remains the most versatile sensing system.
"I'd swear my Golden Retriever can selectively detect a single cheese molecule at 100 feet!"
Chemical sensors expert Timothy Swager, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: "Electronic polymers are now delivering new capabilities for military and security that were previously only possible through the use of trained canines."
With thanks to Ruth Needham for original article
Polymers may lead the way to detecting explosives more easily, claim researchers in the US.
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