Monday, April 04, 2005

"SENSORS: Bomb sniffers sharpen nose for 100% screening"

A modified capacitive transimpedance amplifier promises to increase the sensitivity of airport explosives detectors one thousandfold, making it possible to screen 100% of luggage and passengers with handheld devices that sniff the air around baggage and passengers without delaying departures. Despite the stepped-up federal emphasis on security since 9/11, it has been impossible to scan all airline passengers and their luggage for explosives. Today's technology is not sensitive enough. Machines now used in airports can only detect trace amounts of explosives from samples swabbed from suspicious articles, slowing the process. University of Arizona professor Bonner Denton says the system he developed with other researchers will be smaller and more efficient. "Our entire analyzer system as well as detector electronics fits in a space 4 x 2 x 1.6 inches, and it can be made smaller than that," said Denton. "And it produces higher resolution as well as vastly improved sensitivity." Denton collaborated with fellow University of Arizona scientist Roger Sperline as well as researchers Christopher Gresham and David Jones at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. Sandia is slated to use the chip in a handheld version of the explosive detector that will replace bomb-sniffing dogs. Sandia calls its device a "microhound."