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Device sniffs out landmines

Awardee Story Device sniffs out landmines
Date: Aug 31, 2002

Source: R&D Magazine ( click here to go to the source)

2002 R&D 100 Winner
It’s as sensitive as a canine nose, but can sniff all day and doesn’t require any training. The Fido Landmine Detector developed by a team of re-searchers at Nomadics Inc., Stillwater, Okla., can detect trace amounts of chemical vapor leaking from landmines or other explosive devices. Fido has the potential to help uncover the estimated 40 to 60 million landmines buried around the world today.

This Fido relies on an amplifying fluorescent polymer. The revolutionary material magnifies the photonic signature of individual molecular interactions, allowing for detection ofextremely low concentrations of chemicals. In the field, a small pump draws in samples of air through an inlet. Analytes in the air stick to the walls.

When the polymer detects nitro-aromatic explosives such as TNT, it dramatically reduces in fluorescence. A single molecular binding event dampens the fluorescence of not just one, but many polymer re-peat units. With simple optical and electronic circuitry, the system measures the quenched fluorescence. Its amplified effect on fluorescence gives Fido the ability to achieve sensitivities of 100 parts/quadrillion, making the invisible visible.

Because it detects vapors instead of metal, the hand-held Fido can locate mines made of any material. This ability is essential in that plastic-cased mines that contain little metal have become increasingly common.

Approximately 75% of the landmines used in Bosnia, for example, were of low metal constitution, according to a General Ac-counting Office report. Fido can also ignore metal fragments that have nothing to do with landmines. And it can find mines in ferrous soils where metal detectors will inevitably have detection problems.

Fido can be robot-mounted to avoid unnecessary harm to humans and dogs. Other applications are pending.

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