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Israeli "Nano-nose" Detects Bombs and Drugs

Matan Barami, chief chemist at Israeli nanotech start-up Tracense

With security concerns in public places increasing, a new Israeli technology is poised to generate a lot of interest – and offer more peace of mind.

An Israeli-developed “nano-nose” could help homeland security officers sniff out explosives — as well as drugs, large amounts of cash, and even small metal items that are banned from planes. “And we do it with far less false positives than dogs or other technologies that are being used now to analyze the odor of explosives and other items,” said Matan Barami, chief chemist at Israeli nanotech start-up Tracense.

. . . Although most people don’t realize it, “smell” is just a manifestation of specific molecules, with each smell giving off its own specific chemical qualities. Detecting an odor, thus, is just a matter of figuring out which molecules are being “smelled” — no biggie for modern science, with several systems in use to do just that, using analytical chemistry-based equipment.

While there are such systems on the market, said Barami, they do not use nanotechnology, and thus are not accurate enough to use in “live” situations at airports, bus stations, and shopping centers. “Most systems, for example, will detect whether there are traces of fertilizers — which can be used to manufacture bombs — on a person. But what if he or she is a farmer?” That’s one reason similar systems are not widely used — and why Tracense will be when it hits the market, “because our system can distinguish between the chemical composition of fertilizer when it is used for farming, and the changes it undergoes when it’s used for bombs,” added Barami.

Tags: Israeli Innovation

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