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 August 27, 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 August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) — Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) — Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) — Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) — An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. 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:
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