Chemical warfare gases like sarin have historically been tough to detect in public places, but a new sensor-covered electronic "nose" may change that altogether.
Researchers at Spain's Universitat Politècnica de València have refined a nose that uses 15 sensors, a data acquisition system and a computer to identify potential harmful gases, assess their danger and issue immediate alerts.
"In the future, they could be used, for example, in transport infrastructures such as airports or train stations, as well as in other national security services," said Martinez Mañez, who heads up the Institute of Molecular Recognition and Technological Development at the university.
Metal oxide semiconductor sensors embedded in the nose do the primary diagnostic work. From there, the computer processes the sensors' data to identify the gas and send out the appropriate alert.
The electronic nose's portable nature makes it easy to deploy at a moment's notice in areas where chemical warfare threat levels are high.