Monday, January 14, 2008

Little Sniffers

I've never advocated the idea of passive detection as the key to prevention, but the little corner of my brain that aspires to tech-geekdom thinks this is pretty cool:

A tiny sensor being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could be used for rapid detection of chemical weapons agents, the university said last week.

The gas chromatography and mass spectrometry device is now the size of a computer mouse and could ultimately be shrunk to matchbox size, researchers said.

The sensors could be used for detection of various dangerous gases, including industrial chemicals and warfare materials. A prototype device has been found to produce results in roughly four seconds.

Small devices could be more easily distributed outdoors or within a building and would have greater sensitivity to minimal gas amounts, said electrical engineering and computer science professor Akintunde Ibitayo Akinwande. They could also operate on limited amounts of power.
Sniffers aren't bad, of course. It's just that at the point where they become effective, you're already in response mode, trying to mitigate the damage. The agent is in the air. Still, if you're going to have an army of sniffers, it's better to have a lot of little ones. It's even better if they're networked so you can get a birds' eye view of the dispersal of the agent.

1 comment:

J. said...

The real challenge with these micro-sniffers ususally is in their reliability, both in terms of sensing low levels of agent and not being spoofed by industrial chemicals or contaminants. Everybody wants small and cheap, but they forget about the senstivity and false alarm issues.