Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

A team of MIT researchers has discovered a new explosives detection method that is 30 times more sensitive than other methods. The team, led by chemistry professor Timothy M. Swager and Vladimir Bulovic, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, developed a semiconducting organic polymer that is extremely sensitive to vapors released by explosives such as trinitrotoluene (TNT). Exposure to ultraviolet light ordinarily causes this polymer to emit a beam of laser light. Molecules in the vapor from explosives, however, bind to the material’s surface, preventing lasing and extinguishing the beam.

The scientists believe that the technology could be as effective as trained bomb-sniffing dogs. “While dogs are pretty irreplaceable in terms of their ability to smell small amounts of explosives, they get tired very easily, and they can only work a couple hours a day,” says Aimee Rose, PhD ‘03, a visiting scientist at MIT and a researcher at Stillwater, OK-based technology development firm Nomadics. Rose also notes that the MIT technology, which grew out of her doctoral work, may be able to detect explosives at greater distances than dogs or currently available man-made sensors can–a particularly desirable feature for people hunting land mines and suicide bombs. Nomadics has licensed the technology, aiming to incorporate it into its existing line of bomb detectors within the next two years. – By Lisa Scanlon

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me