Polymer could be used to detect IEDs

Researchers in the US have created a fluorescing polymer that can quickly and safely detect trace amounts of RDX, a chemical that's often the key ingredient in improvised explosive devices (IEDs)

Inventor William Dichtel, an assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, believes the material could be incorporated into low cost, handheld sensor devices, and even be used instead of bomb-sniffing dogs.

The polymer has a random, cross-linked structure that allows it to absorb light and transport the resulting energy throughout its structure. After a certain period of time, it releases this energy as light, a process known as fluorescence.

If the energy encounters a molecule of explosive as it travels through the polymer, it can be converted into heat instead of light, which causes the polymer to stop glowing.

"This design allows the polymer fluorescence to sense extremely small amounts of the explosive of interest, enabling identification of IEDs or people who have recently handled them," Dichtel concluded.

Laura Hopperton

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