The Device That Can Sniff Out Explosives

I’ve written a number of times about interesting new technologies that are designed to detect explosives.  For instance, last year I wrote about a fascinating German project whereby a robot had been developed to detect bombs.  The team developed a remote controlled robot that’s capable of assessing the danger of a situation, whilst also producing 3D images of the contents and shape of the luggage (as evidence in case it is explosive).

The team, from the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR in Wachtberg, have worked with the North Rhine-Westphalia State Office of Criminal Investigation, the Leibnitz University in Hannover, ELP GmbH and Hentschel System GmbH in developing the device.

Or you’ve got the Israeli team that have developed a special bacteria designed to detect landmines.

The secret is in minuscule vapors given off by the landmines, which the bacteria is capable of detecting. If the vapor is detected, the bacteria responds by glowing. The bacteria is wrapped in polymer beads and scattered across a suspected minefield. The detection team then use a laser to spot the bacteria as it reacts to the vapor given off by the mines. The system has already been tested in the field, with positive initial results.

Sniffing out bombs

It’s very much along these lines that Californian startup Koniku are going with their device that can not only sniff out explosives, but also cancer cells.  The device, known as Koniku Kore, is programmed to sniff out the unique smell explosives give off.

The methodology will be primarily deployed in security based use-cases, but the team also believe it has value in areas such as healthcare and agriculture.

Synthetic brain

The device combines synthetic neurobiology with silicon technology to perform a range of sensing functions to detect smell.  Koniku have already raised over $1 million and claim to have secured numerous deals with the security industry.

It’s part of a growing number of startups looking to digitize the smelling process.  For instance, earlier this year I covered French startup Aryballe Technologies.

They’ve developed their own digital nose, called NeOse, and they’re also targeting industrial users to allow for the rapid detection of unwelcome odors, such as gas leaks.

The device uses optical sensor technology to identify specific molecules, whilst they share the kind of surface plasmon resonance techniques found on many lab-on-a-chip sensors. Collectively, they’re capable of identifying hundreds of different smells.