Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sniffing Out Explosives

An organic polymer is 30 times more sensitive than other methods.

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

paragraph one

Rest of the article

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.