Artificial nose to sniff out illegal substances

Home Technologist Online Artificial nose to sniff out illegal substances

A newly developed digital sensor will make it quick and easy to detect bombs, explosives and drugs at airports and in customs areas.

Hand luggage and suitcases at airport check-in

About CRIM-TRACK

The CRIM-TRACK project, as it is called, is funded by the European Union (EU) under the Seventh Framework Programme. Scheduled to run until the end of 2016, the project involves seven partners from five EU countries.

These include end users such as the Lithuanian Police, the Dutch Customs Authorities, the Danish Tax Authority and the Danish Emergency Management Agency, who are all interested in using the machine once it has been fully developed. In addition, the project involves technical partners including Cranfield University in the UK and DTU, which coordinates the project.

In less than three years, police and emergency services are set to have access to a ground-breaking tool that will help them combat terrorism, drug smuggling and other criminal activities. Using a newly developed artificial ‘dog’s nose’, they will have the capacity to reveal bombs, explosives and chemical substances that can be used in the commission of crime and which are hidden in containers, hand luggage and suitcases.

The ‘dog’s nose’ consists of a system of digital sensors which, using near real-time information, can detect fumes and residues of illegal substances that may be hidden in containers of passengers’ luggage when they check in at airports. The system is user-friendly, inexpensive to operate, and quick to identify suspicious fumes.

The European research project was launched on 1 January this year, and a prototype was recently tested.

Tracking down anything from money to food

“There is a huge need to develop fast, flexible equipment to identify drugs and explosives,” says nanotechnology researcher Jens Kristian Munk from Technical University of Denmark’s (DTU), who is involved in developing the technology.

“The authorities use means such as x-ray scanners, screening and sniffer dogs today. In principle, ‘The Nose’ can do the same work as the dogs. However, it is much more reliable and it can be ‘trained’ to track down anything from money to foods. This makes the machine unique,” Munk explains.

Closeup of a dog's nose

The artificial ‘dog’s nose’ can do the same work as real dogs but is much more reliable. (Image: Colourbox.)

“The ‘Nose’ functions by taking air samples from luggage or containers. Chemicals located in the sensor chamber react to fumes or traces of illegal substances. A wireless connection is then used to transfer images from the air samples to a computer in a different location. The computer analyses the changes in colour and provides an answer – green or red – according to whether or not the police or customs officials should take a closer look at the suspect item.”

The concept originally comes from the United States, and has been refined and developed at DTU.

– Source: article by Christina Tækker in DTU News

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