So you drop by the store tonight and buy the latest model of a Star Trek tricoder-type device -- a handheld instrument for scanning alien environments -- and use it to check your home air for indoor pollutants. As farfetched as that idea may seem, such devices are inching closer to reality, according to a new article.
The article, by C&EN Senior Correspondent Marc Reisch, explains that scientific instrument makers are in the midst of an effort to expand their traditional markets, moving instruments like mass spectrometers and infrared photometers out of the lab and into the hands of the average consumer.
In a world that fears terrorists, contaminated food, and airborne pollutants, instrument companies are working to design portable, inexpensive, user-friendly devices that can do the work of those laboratory mainstays, Reisch writes. An executive of one major instrument maker, quoted in the article, predicts that such instruments will be available to consumers, including Star Trek-like devices that serve as personal environmental scanners.
"Given the proliferation of instruments alongside manufacturing lines and in battle zones, office buildings, and refineries, it just might be feasible for a consumer to walk into Home Depot someday and buy a device that today only a scientist or quality control expert would want to have," the article concludes.
The article "In hot pursuit: Instrument makers harness technology to pursue budding applications for their tools" is scheduled for the August 13 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).
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