LONDON Researchers from the University of Bangor in North Wales have developed a biosensor that can detect low levels of explosive materials in the atmosphere.
The biosensor makes use of enzymes that have been genetically modified in order to enable them to adhere to the surface of an electrode sensor, where they remain active. The enzyme, by virtue of its biological ability to breakdown or synthesize chemical compounds, reacts with the compounds found in an explosive, and the reaction then generates an electrical signal. The arrangement of the enzyme is such that it can detect explosive vapors at a level in the part per trillion range.
The prototype measures 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) across and has been dubbed 'nanodog'. A production device could be used to screen airport passengers and luggage to avoid security threats.
Mahar Kalajj from the University of Bangor in Wales led the team responsible for patenting the sensor technology. “The enzymes act very much like a dog's nose and sniff out any explosive vapors in the atmosphere,” Kalajj was reported as saying by a European Union website.
The next step is to develop a greater number of enzymes so that chemical- and explosive-specific results can be obtained. To make the sensor head yet smaller the Bangor team is joining a European Union funded project, called Nanosecure, which is due to start in October 2006.