Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nano sensor detects minute traces of plastic explosives: Scientists enable inexpensive, reliable checks for explosives

Date:
July 27, 2011
Source:
Technische Universität Darmstadt
Summary:
Materials scientists in Germany have developed an extremely sensitive explosives sensor that is capable of detecting even slight traces of the high-explosive chemical compound pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). Terrorists had employed PETN in several attacks on commercial aircraft.

Within the sensor ambient air crosses a meander structure with nanotubes. If a PETN-molecule enters the nanotubes, the electrical conductivity of the nanotubes changes.
Credit: Mario Boehme / TU Darmstadt

Working in collaboration with the RhineMain Polytechnic, materials scientists at the TU Darmstadt have developed an extremely sensitive explosives sensor that is capable of detecting even slight traces of the high-explosive chemical compound pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). Terrorists had employed PETN in several attacks on commercial aircraft.

To date, the high-explosive chemical compound PETN could be detected exclusively by means of wipe tests and an ion-mobility spectrometer. However, since conducting such tests involves considerable time and effort, it is employed at airports for spot-checking only. Airport scanners and dogs trained to sniff out explosives have a hard time detecting PETN, since PETN is only slightly volatile and therefore liberates only small numbers of molecules into the ambient air. PETN is also a high explosive. Just a few grams are enough to totally destroy a medium-sized passenger car. Thanks to those properties, PETN has recently been frequently employed by terrorists. PETN was found in the package bombs that were intended to blow up cargo planes late last year and was also employed by the "underpants bomber" in his attempted attack on a passenger plane in December 2009.

Scientists at the TU‑Darmstadt have recently developed a nanosensor capable of detecting a single PETN‑molecule among ten billion air molecules. Explaining the new type of explosive detector's operation, Dipl.‑Ing. Mario Boehme stated that, "If a PETN‑molecule enters the sensor's nanotube, the nitro groups characteristic of PETN adhere to its surface and change its electrical conductivity, and that change may be detected by electronic instrumentation."

Checking for explosives without spending more time in the process

In order to detect PETN using the new sensor, all that is necessary is conducting ambient air across the sensor. Boehme added that, "One possibility would be equipping the conventional metal detectors and X‑ray machines employed at airport security checkpoints with the new sensor and a device for inducting air." That approach would allow discreetly checking all passengers and their luggage for explosives without spending more time in the process. He went on to state that, "However, another possibility would be utilizing a hand-held device similar to a table vacuum cleaner that would allow checking individual passengers." Since the sensors are extremely small and inexpensive to manufacture, he can also envision employing them at sports events or in other types of security checks. He and his research associates are currently seeking industrial collaboration partners.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universität Darmstadt. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Technische Universität Darmstadt. "Nano sensor detects minute traces of plastic explosives: Scientists enable inexpensive, reliable checks for explosives." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092952.htm>.
Technische Universität Darmstadt. (2011, July 27). Nano sensor detects minute traces of plastic explosives: Scientists enable inexpensive, reliable checks for explosives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092952.htm
Technische Universität Darmstadt. "Nano sensor detects minute traces of plastic explosives: Scientists enable inexpensive, reliable checks for explosives." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092952.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) — The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) — The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) — President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) — Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
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:
from the past week

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