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Posted: May 10, 2012
Nanosensors for explosive detection
(Nanowerk News) This month, the Naval Engineering Education Center heads south to check in on the progress being made on a collaborative project involving Tennessee State University and Florida Atlantic University where NEEC investigators and students are looking at ways to detect explosives using nano-sensor technology while protecting troops, saving lives and building the future of our engineering workforce.
Explosive devices, like Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), are responsible for a significant amount of causalities to United States and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, according to a USA Today news story published last year, IEDs accounted for more than 40% of all deaths caused during the war in Afghanistan in 2010.
"Urban warfare has changed how we deal with wartime strategies," says Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, the NEEC Principal Investigator on the project and Dean of the College of Engineering at Tennessee State University. "Our NEEC research team is investigating methods to develop a new, improved, efficient way to detect explosives."
According to Professor Malkani Mohan, a Co-PI on this project from Tennessee State University, "Detecting explosives is a challenging task, which is complicated by low vapor pressures, frequent introduction of new explosive compositions, and novel concealment techniques. Trace detection of explosives usually requires collecting vapor or particulate samples and analyzing them with a sensitive sensor system. Many different techniques are currently used but they are bulky, expensive and difficult to deploy."
But this team's collaborative approach is unique in that they investigate micro- and nano-cantilever beam sensors for detection. Micro- and nano-cantilever beam sensors offer a distinct advantage in that they are small, very responsive and very sensitive. Furthermore, their sensitivity and selectivity can be tuned by modifying the surface treatment.
Both universities are both exposing underrepresented minorities to critical engineering challenges and careers which will benefit our country and the Navy. While Tennessee State University is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Florida Atlantic University is a Minority-Serving Institution (MSI).
The Naval Engineering Education Center (NEEC) is a consortium comprised of 15 institutions of higher education and two professional societies. Our goal is to develop the next generation of civilian engineers for the Navy through project-based education, collaboration, and curriculum development.