Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sniffing out shoe bombs: A new and simple sensor for explosive chemicals

Date:
October 19, 2010
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Chemists have developed a simple sensor to detect an explosive used in shoe bombs. It could lead to inexpensive, easy-to-use devices for luggage and passenger screening at airports and elsewhere. The detector uses a printed array, smaller than a postage stamp, of pigments that change color in the presence of TATP.

The handheld reader analyzes the color changes in the sensor array to quickly monitor the environment for explosive chemicals.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Ken Suslick

University of Illinois chemists have developed a simple sensor to detect an explosive used in shoe bombs. It could lead to inexpensive, easy-to-use devices for luggage and passenger screening at airports and elsewhere.

Related Articles


Triacetone triperoxide (TATP) is a high-powered explosive that in recent years has been used in several bombing attempts. TATP is easy to prepare from readily available components and has been difficult to detect. It defies most standard methods of chemical sensing: It doesn't fluoresce, absorb ultraviolet light or readily ionize.

The few methods available to screen for TATP aren't feasible for on-the-ground use in airports, as they require large, expensive equipment, extensive sample preparation, or relatively high concentrations of TATP in solid or liquid form. There is no simple way to detect TATP vapor.

Kenneth Suslick, the Schmidt Professor of Chemistry at the U. of I., and postdoctoral researcher Hengwei Lin have developed a colorimetric sensor array that can quantitatively detect even very low levels of TATP vapor -- down to a mere 2 parts per billion. They wrote about their findings in an article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

To create the sensor array, the researchers print a series of 16 tiny colored dots -- each a different pigment -- on an inert plastic film. A solid acid catalyst breaks down TATP into detectable components that cause the pigments to change color, like litmus paper.

Each pigment changes colors depending on the concentration of TATP in the air. The array is digitally imaged with an ordinary flatbed scanner or an inexpensive electronic camera before and after exposure to the air.

"Imagine a polka-dotted postage stamp sensor that can sniff out the shoe-bomber explosive simply by using a digital camera to measure the changing colors of the sensor's spots," Suslick said. "The pattern of the color change is a unique molecular fingerprint for TATP at any given concentration and we can identify it in a matter of seconds."

The array is uniquely sensitive to TATP. Unlike many other chemical sensors, Suslick and Lin's array is unaffected by changes in humidity or exposure to other chemicals, such as personal hygiene products or laundry detergents. It also has a long shelf life, so airport security and other users can keep a supply on hand.

In addition to demonstrating their sensing technique with an ordinary flatbed scanner, the researchers also developed a functional prototype hand-held device. The portable instrument, designed to easily screen luggage or shoes, uses inexpensive white LED illumination and an ordinary digital camera similar to a cell-phone camera.

"The hand-held device makes the whole process portable, sensitive, fast and inexpensive," Suslick said. The hand-held sensor now is being commercialized by iSense, a senor manufacturer based in Palo Alto, Calif.

"One of the nice things about this technology is that it uses components that are readily available and relatively inexpensive," said David Balshaw, Ph.D. program administrator at National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which supported the project.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hengwei Lin, Kenneth S. Suslick. A Colorimetric Sensor Array for Detection of Triacetone Triperoxide Vapor. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010; 101015130719034 DOI: 10.1021/ja107419t

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Sniffing out shoe bombs: A new and simple sensor for explosive chemicals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101019152608.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2010, October 19). Sniffing out shoe bombs: A new and simple sensor for explosive chemicals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101019152608.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Sniffing out shoe bombs: A new and simple sensor for explosive chemicals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101019152608.htm (accessed April 21, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called &apos;Han&apos; recognises and interprets people&apos;s facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) Latin American robotics experts gather in Santiago, Chile for "Robotics Day". Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) She can smile, she can sing and she can give you guidance at one of the most upscale department stores in Tokyo...a female-looking humanoid makes her debut as a receptionist Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pee-Power Toilet to Light Up Disaster Zones

Pee-Power Toilet to Light Up Disaster Zones

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) Students and staff are being asked to use a prototype urinal to &apos;donate&apos; urine to fuel microbial fuel cell (MFC) stacks that generate electricity to power lighting. The developers hope the pee-power technology will light toilet cubicles in refugee camps, where women are often at risk of assault in poorly lit sanitation areas. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins