Dehradun: Scientists at IIT-Roorkee have developed a multi-modal fluorescent polymer sensor for highly sensitive detection of nitro-aromatic explosives (the one used in landmines). 

They claim that if metal detectors are coated with a thin sheet of this polymer, they can detect explosives from a distance of over 100 metres. 

Nitro-aromatic explosives are not only fatal for humans and animals but also contaminate the environment. The sniffer dogs used by Indian Army often get sick and even die after smelling highly poisonous explosives. 

Prof Soumitra Satapathi of IIT Roorkee’s physics department and centre for nanotechnology said, “These are mainly industrial chemicals which are used in the making of burn ointments, pesticides, glass and leather industries but they also form the primary compounds of explosives such as DNT,TNP and TNT which are hard to detect and hazardous too. If metal detectors are coated with a thin sheet of this polymer, it will detect explosives from a distance of over 100 m. The distance of detection may vary depending on the depth of a landmine.” 

Talking about what made them work on this, Satapathi said, “The conventional explosives detection methods mainly rely on canines or sophisticated instruments such as gas chromatography. However, all these methods are expensive and may not be readily translated for field use. Our newly-developed light-weight and compact prototype explosive sensor can help in defence and security purposes and they will be able to do away with the conventional methods.” 

He added that if the fluorescent polymer is near explosives such as DNT, TNT etc which are often used in landmines, the device will glow green-yellow and the explosives will be spotted. 

Vishal Kumar, who was also part of the study, added, “We are also working on a similar system to detect other explosives such as nitro-esters (Nitroglyscerin, PETN) and nitro-amines (RDX, HMX).”