Electronic Weapons: Making Molecules Talk


November 21, 2010:  A team of Israeli researchers has developed a new, electronic, explosives detector that uses 200 sensors, each for a different molecule, to quickly detect nearly all explosives troops or security forces are likely to encounter. The new device is believed to be more effective than the best bomb sniffing dogs. The new device uses the same techniques the dog does, the ability to identify combinations of molecules explosives emit. The new technology is cheaper, faster, smaller, more accurate and detects smaller traces of explosives than existing electronic explosives detectors.

An example of current technology is the Fido XTi explosives detector. This 1.23 kg (2.7 pound) device can detect explosives with similar accuracy as a dog, but it takes three minutes to start up and the batteries only last four hours. These electronic devices are expensive, at about $22,000 each, but they are small enough to mount on a robot, or, via a cable, a safe distance from the troops. Fido XT first showed up in the combat zone four years ago, and has a good track record. But an expensive device like this is more than most countries can afford. So, for example, the U.S. buys them for the Afghans, and everyone benefits because of the bomb attacks that are foiled, and the bombers who are taken alive, and interrogated to find the permanent (and difficult to replace) members of the bomber team. The new technology will provide cheaper and quicker detection of explosives, especially tiny quantities left on people who have recently handled explosives.





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