Building a better bomb sniffer | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Building a better bomb sniffer

Handheld device detects an explosive that is easy to make but hard to detect

10:18am, November 5, 2010

A handheld device that sniffs out the same powerful explosive employed by the would-be shoe bomber may be coming soon to an airport near you. Chemists have developed a sensor that detects minute amounts of TATP, an explosive favored by terrorists because it is easy to make and difficult to detect.

The new sensor consists of a postage stamp–sized array of dyes that change color when they react with certain compounds. When air containing triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, is drawn toward the sensor, it passes over a chemical catalyst. Some of the TATP in the air reacts with the catalyst and the resulting mixture hits the dyes. The ensuing chemical reactions yield a specific color pattern that is discernable within minutes, researchers report in the Nov. 10 Journal of the American Chemical Society.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content