A new portable sensor system detects airborne organic chemicals about as accurately as a $25,000 machine confined to a lab. The device’s sensor element (above) holds an array of polymers deposited between capacitance plates; their ability to store electrical charge changes in specific ways when certain molecules are absorbed, enabling the device to identify those agents. The system incorporates a polymer called BSP3, invented at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, that is especially responsive to compounds such as nerve agents and certain pesticides.
Credit: Bruce Peterson
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