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Lasers could keep bomb-sniffing dogs out of harm's way

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After 9/11 there was an explosion in the number of bomb-sniffing dogs who found employment in the country. Citing info from one of the top training facilities in the nation, MSA, Smithsonian Magazine notes that when the program began in 1987, there were only a few bomb-sniffing dogs available and in 2000, there were only 15. Now, bomb dogs are everywhere (and likely number in the tens of thousands)—from banks to airports to stadiums to private schools. But it sounds like these superior sniffers just might be out of a job thanks to technology.

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On Sunday researchers at UC Berkeley published the findings of their study, which showed that they’ve found a better way to detect explosives using technology. They have developed a light-based plasmon sensor that can detect incredibly small amounts of explosives. What they found when testing the laser out on several explosives, including DNT, ammonium nitrate and nitrobenzene, is that the laser was essentially able to find one blade of grass in an entire football field. The actual figures come out to the sensor being able to detect concentrations of of 0.67 parts per billion, 0.4 parts per billion and 7.2 parts per million.

It can also detect explosive alternatives, such as pentaerythritol tetranitrate, which can fool even X-rays in the TSA process.

The sensor on the very outer layer of the device is designed to interact with explosive chemicals and turn out an intense light upon detection. The key is that it detects an electron deficiency, which explosives generally have. PETN, though easily hidden in other areas, wouldn’t be able to hide from this sensor because it has an incredibly high electron deficiency.

The sensor can fit into a handheld device, which makes it incredibly easy for agents to bring with them. It would relieve agencies of the cost of dogs, which would include the cost of the dog itself (which starts around $10,000), a vehicle to safely transport the dogs and then things like food and care. With the use of the device, hopefully detection of explosives would increase, and in the event of an explosion (like a landmine), no fur babies on the job would be injured.

Should this technology be trusted completely, or would you feel safer having the presence of a bomb-sniffing dog around instead of an officer?