Quartz Rod "Nose" Device Could Sniff Out Explosives On the Cheap

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From sad, anger-inducing news about bomb-sniffing charlatans we segue, thankfully, into some bomb detection news that may actually save lives. Made of quartz rods, this sniffer looks to be the real deal. Let's get it to where it's needed.


Mainly Iraq, Afghanistan and dozens of other war torn countries around the world, or any place that's been taken advantage of by war criminal Jim McCormick and his wave of fraudulent dowsing rod RFID devices.

The quartz device is simple, cheap, and in tests remarkably effective. It sniffs out a substance called TATP, which made its infamous debut on the world stage during the 2004 Madrid bombing and later in July 2005, when terrorists attacked the London tubes. Why TATP? It's easily made, cheap and similar to TNT, making it an obvious choice for terrorist cells across the globe. It's also used a lot as a detonator, but the quartz rod device can detect either usage easily:

At its heart are three quartz rods, each 3 millimetres long and 40 micrometres wide, which are made to vibrate by applying an alternating voltage. Any TATP in the air bonds to chemicals coating the rods, causing their resonant frequency to change. Each rod is coated with a different chemical - a phenylene dendrimer, a cyclodextrin and sodium cholate - and each changes its rod's resonant frequency in a different way. It is the combination of three changes that reveals TATP's presence.


In the tests, the device was accurate, sensing TATP at levels of 1ppm. Researchers say 0.1 ppm will be possible in the future. Detectors that implement the technology will cost about $100, meaning they could easily be put in bus doorways, checkpoints and airports. Oh, and they actually work.

Photo note: Damage done by a TATP bomb. [New Scientist]