Sensors and Chemical Security

Aug. 24, 2010

There is a lot of interesting new technology being developed around chemical security. Much of it is being funded by the government and specifically by DHS. I ran across an article about a college intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee who is working on sensors that can detect vaporized explosives.

There is a lot of interesting new technology being developed around chemical security. Much of it is being funded by the government and specifically by DHS. I ran across an article about a college intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee who is working on sensors that can detect vaporized explosives.

Apparently the sensors resemble miniature diving boards and are coated with a compound that will bend when certain substances chemically or physically attach to the surface. In the laboratory special equipment is used to determine how much the little diving boards bend. That lets scientist know how much explosive chemicals are in the air.

The team is working on sensors that can detect dimethyl methylphosphonate or DMMP. DMMP can be used as a chemical weapon and it can also be used to make sarin or nerve gas which is often used in chemical warfare. The idea is that these sensors could be placed at ports of entry to detect dangerous chemicals and potential terrorist activity. They could be used in airports or cargo docks and the sensors would be able to alert people if chemicals reached a dangerous level. According to people in the industry this would be a boon to port of entry inspection tools. It would give officials the ability to identify chemicals quickly and accurately.

What is going on in sensor technology for chemical security is pretty amazing. I wrote a column a couple of months back about sensors being developed for smart phones that could detect chemicals in the air. That also was being funded by DHS. There is an updated article on the Cell-All project. It goes into more detail on how the sensors and cell phone will work together and how officials would be notified in cause of a chemical emergency.

It is great to see this type of forward thinking and technology innovation on the part of the department. DHS has really stepped up to do its best to keep preventative chemical security technology moving forward. Keeping ahead of the terrorist isn't easy, but it can only be done by looking into the future.

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