Engineers Develop Material That Can Sniff Fuel-Based Explosives

Posted: Mar 26 2016, 6:04am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Engineers Develop Material That Can Sniff Fuel-Based Explosives
University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Ling Zang holds up a prototype handheld detector his company is producing that can sense explosive materials and toxic gases. His research team developed a new material for the detector that can sense alkane fuel, a key ingredient in such combustibles as gasoline, airplane fuel and homemade bombs. Credit: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering
  • A Detector has been invented that can Sniff Out Toxic Gases

A new detector has been invented that can sniff out toxic gases.

Alkane fuel is a chief ingredient of inflammable materials such as gasoline, jet engine fuel, oil and even home-made bombs. However, up until now there was no means of detecting its toxic vapors.

This was because the gas it released didn’t have any smell or color. Now though, a group of University of Utah engineers have made a novel fiber for a manual scanner that can easily detect small amounts of alkane vapor.

This is an impressive and progressive step. It spells the beginning of an early warning system for leaks in an oil pipeline, airliner fuel tank or terrorist’s homemade bomb.

The invention was mentioned in an online journal. At present there are no small sensing devices for alkane vapors. That is because the gas is not reactive on a chemical level.

The only means of detecting it is by means of a large scale arrangement in a lab. This large instrument of sorts is not movable and it has a lot of weight. It cannot be employed in fieldwork. Something portable is required.

So the team of dedicated researchers built a fiber composite that had two nanofibers that relayed electrons between them. When alkane gas is present, it gets lodged between the two ends.

This stops the relay of the electrons. Thus the detector passes on the signal that alkane gas is present in the surroundings. A prototype of this detector has been designed.

It contains 16 sensor materials that can detect a range of dangerous chemical gases in the atmosphere. These chemicals include explosives. The addition of a new material into the sensing repertoire of the device has led to the detection of alkane gas.

Three sectors of society will benefit immensely from this arrangement of things. One is the field of oil production. Leaks in oil pipelines have to be detected as quickly as possible.

Otherwise the worst pollution is an inevitable outcome. The water gets covered by a layer which goes on to form an oil spill. A portable sensor placed right beside an oil pipeline would easily detect any leakage from it.

Airplanes have bladder-like fuel tanks made of a special fabric. Instead of dying the fuel of an airplane a special color, a sensor could be used to detect leakages. Finally, the scanner could be used at airports to detect any bombs that suspect terrorists may be trying to sneak past the security guards.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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