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Tel Aviv University Develops Powerful Electronic Sensor

Powerful electronic sensor is capable of detecting many kinds of explosives.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/3/2010, 5:16 AM / Last Update: 11/4/2010, 4:17 AM

Tel Aviv U

A research team headed by Prof. Fernando Patolsky of Tel Aviv University’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Chemistry has developed a new powerful electronic sensor that is able to detect numerous types of explosives.  Highly portable, the new sensor is reportedly more sensitive and reliable at detecting explosives than sniffer dogs.

The sensor employs arrays of silicon nanowires to form an electronic device (a nanotransistor) that is supersensitive to the surrounding electrical environment. The research team coated the wires with a compound that binds to explosives. In order to enhance the chips’ sensitivity, the scientists equipped them with 200 individual sensors that enable them to detect many different kinds of explosives with an unprecedented degree of reliability, efficiency and rapidity.

The new sensor has a major advantage in its portability. It can be transported from place to place by hand and is also capable of detecting explosives from a distance.  It can be mounted on a wall and does not need to be brought into contact with the item being checked.

“There is a need for a small, inexpensive, handheld instrument capable of detecting explosives quickly, reliably and efficiently,” said Prof. Patolsky and explained that existing methods of detecting explosives such as TNT have drawbacks including high cost, cumbersomeness, lengthy decoding times, or the need for expert or laboratory analysis.  This new sensor eliminates all these.

An article on the development was recently published in Angewandte Chemie, a weekly scientific journal which focuses on chemistry. The sensor is attracting attention and interest from scientists and from security and protection companies, one of which is Nanergy Inc. which has developed a prototype based on the patent.

Prof. Patolsky’s research team is considered to be one of the world’s leading teams involved in the development of nanometric sensors for the detection of chemical and biological molecules.