Pictured here are three wireless devices that use carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to achieve high sensitivity to ammonia. At left is a patch antenna, inkjet-printed on photographic paper, with the CNTs shown in black. At top center is an omni-directional segmented loop antenna on a soft substrate, designed for potential 5.8 GHz RFID integration. At bottom right is an inter-digitated capacitor on silicon substrate with CNT loading across the electrodes, being tested for its DC resistance. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek.)
Homeland security is going to be an increasingly important sector for design engineers. One thing that's lacking is turnkey solutions which bundle everything from the sensor to the software to the under interface to the packaging and deployment. (For an interesting development in that regard, in the airport perimeter security realm, see a story I did a while back on some IBM work -- "IBM Patenting Airport Security Profiling Technology.")
That said, this sensor is a great advance in terms of applicability to portable devices.
What am I missing? If the sensor requires a special printer and special ink cartridges, what is the advantage over standard manufacturing? Or is the idea that the military (or whoever) would purchase their own printer / "ink" and make the items onsite?
That's a good question, Beth. The researchers hope to spin off a company to build a manufacturing facility. While startup costs could run into the millions, once that's accomplished, printing the sensors would be fast and inexpensive.
I can see some value in such a sensor, and it certainly is a great invention. Unfortunately it would not be able to detect any of the non-ammonia based explosives, of which there are many. For example, consider plain old gunpowder, using a potasium based compound, and nitroglyceren , and that old military standby "C4". So while it is a great contribution, it does not end the problem. Aside from that, there is an easy and simple way to render the sensor useless. But I won't describe that method at all.
This may become a great product and very IMPORTANT one. We need to doall we can to support and help our troops. This is a very nice idea, but clearly it is important to isolate the amonia from regular uses and minimize errors.
Given the toll that IEDs have had on troops and civilians, this seems like a technology that could have some real life-saving impact. I'm curious, though if specialized ink-jet printers and photographic paper limit production to a laboratory scale, how realistic is it that these sensors can really make a different in sniffing out dangerous explosives?
More often than not, with the purchase of a sports car comes the sacrifice of any sort of utility. In other words, you can forget about a large trunk, extra seats for the kids, and more importantly driving in snowy (or inclement) weather. But what if there was a vehicle that offered the best of both worlds; great handling and practicality?
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
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