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A chemical sensing system developed by engineers at the University of Connecticut is believed to be the first of its kind capable of detecting vapors from buried landmines and other explosive devices with the naked eye rather than advanced scientific instrumentation.
The key to the system is a fluorescent nanofiberous film that can detect ultra-trace levels of explosive vapors and buried explosives when applied to an area where explosives are suspected. A chemical reaction marking the location of the explosive device occurs when the film is exposed to handheld ultraviolet light.
The system can detect nitroaromatics such as those found in TNT and 2,4-DNT (the military's primary explosive and the principle components in landmines) as well as the elements used in harder to detect plastic explosives such as HMX, RDX, Tetryl, and PETN. The ultra-sensitive system can detect elements at levels as low as 10 parts per billion (TNT), 74 parts per trillion (Tetryl), 5 ppt (RDX), 7 ppt (PETN) and 0.1 ppt (HMX) released from one billionth of a gram of explosive residue.