Krishna Naishadham (left) and Xiaojuan Song (Right) holding components of their printed sensor. (Via Georgia Institute of Technology)
Some create explosives meant to harm, while others build devices to stop them.
Krishna Naishadham and Xiaojuan Song have developed an inexpensive wireless bomb detection sensor that is sure to keep many safe. The two Georgia Institute of Technology researchers joined forces to build a low-cost paper-like wireless sensor and communication device using inkjet printer like technology to deliver sensors in large quantities for those who need it.
Functional carbon nanotubes are at the heart of technology. The nanotubes are coated with a polymer that attracts ammonia, a component of many explosive devices. To apply the nanotubes to the paper electronics the team used sound to create a liquid out of the material, a process called sonication. Along with the liquefied sensor material, a liquid of Ag nanoparticles in an emulsion is used to apply the other RF related components. Both "inks" can be applied to almost any surface at a low 100 degree Celsius temperature.
Song explained, "The optimized carbon nanotubes are applied as a sensing film, with specific functionalization designed for a particular gas or analyte. The GTRI [Georgia Tech Research Institute] sensor detects trace amounts of ammonia usually found near explosive devices, and it can also be designed to detect similar gases in household, healthcare and industrial environments at very low concentration levels." Naishadham stated that the sensor can detect traces as low as 5 parts per million.
This new approach to stand off detection can be made anywhere a printer is available. The team states that detection occurs at a safe distance. Building a network of these devices working in tandem is the ultimate goal of effort. They are committed to bringing this tech to "military and humanitarian missions." However, once ammonia is detected, knowing where the trace is coming from is the next issue to handle. At this point, I would just stand still indefinitely and be happy I did not walk to imminent destruction.