In the never-ending battle to protect our freedoms, detecting chemical agents and illegal drugs remains a top priority. Luckily, the smart people at Queen’s University in Belfast have just come up with a new way that will provide instant results, and won’t be something that can be tricked by covering scents or other materials.
There’s an obvious problem with the current technology. The cheery TSA person rubs a swab on your shoe, and then on a pad that changes color if you’ve been say, walking through fertilizer and fuel oil recently, or possibly working with aluminum powder, and then you end up spending some time in a locked room explaining exactly what you were planning. Lots of false positives, and likely a fair amount of false negatives as well (we’ll never know how many).
The new technique will use the “Raman Spectroscopy” method, which involves shining a laser beam into the sample, and then measuring the energy of the light that is scattered by it to determine what exactly the chemical compound is. This method allows for near-instant measurement of minuscule particles, making the detection processes extremely fast and accurate.
The technology is not currently available however, since it is only about halfway through the development process. The applications, aside from the obvious Homeland Security use, will include a new generation of breathalyzers and field testing equipment.