The Latest Weapon Against Terrorists: Sewage-Sniffing Bomb Sensors

The Latest Weapon Against Terrorists: Sewage-Sniffing Bomb Sensors

Bad guys can't just close their window shades to hide from the law any more. A European research group has developed a high-tech way to detect bomb makers and illegal drug labs — by sniffing what they flush down the toilet.

The Emphasis project, led by an analytical chemist with Sweden's Defence Research Agency and presented at last month's International Symposium on the Analysis and Detection of Explosives, puts a series of 10.2cm-long sensors in the stream of a city's sewage infrastructure.

Bomb or drug ingredients dumped down the drain trigger a voltage change in the sensors, indicating that something other than the normal ones-and-twos is flowing into the labyrinth of pipes below the city. Similar sensors sniffing above-ground for tell-tale vapours help pinpoint exactly where production is going on.

So far, the stalwart (and probably very stinky) sensors have proven successful in lab testing. New Scientist reports they will be tested in real sewers next year — and we're grateful, because presumably no one will ever complain about technology stealing this job. [New Scientist]

Image: Shutterstock / chalabala

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