When I picture bomb detection, I imagine teams from movies such as the Hurt Locker, wearing the heavily padded suit and with speciality devices. In reality, the methods vary as well as the price (the cheaper the less sensitive) but no matter the equipment, bomb detection requires hard to manufacture tools and a trained operator. Luckily a research team recently created a cheaper and effective tool for bomb detection. A team lead by Dr. Krishna Naishadham from Georgia Tech Research Institute, have created a ink-jet printable ammonia sensor, which is a cheap and effective tool for bomb detection.
How does it work?
Ammonia is a prime ingredient in a variety of explosives. In order to detect the ammonia, a sensor is created via printing carbon nanotubes on paper (or paper-like materials). The ink that prints on the paper has silver nano-particles which is passed through a ink-jet printer. Then the ink is hit with ultrasonic waves, resulting in a more homogeneous ink.
The ink sets and forms into nanoscale cylinders. Finally these tubes are coated with a conductive polymer that attracts ammonia, the key ingredient in explosives. This coating can trace levels of ammonia as low as five parts per million. In other words, this printout will make a very sensitive bomb detector.
These nanotubes may also be altered to detect other gases and can be formed into circuits that can transmit data. Also the device uses very little power and is printable on various surfaces if needed.
In all, this cheap and effective bomb detector have the potential to save a lot of lives.