A unique device has been designed by the Moscow scientists – specialists of the Institute of General Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, supported by funding from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. The device not only helps to discover in a few seconds the minute quantities of narcotics and explosives in the air, but to identify and even count every single molecule of these dangerous substances. For the first time has the man managed to approach the creation of device more sensitive than the dog’s nose, besides, it is impossible to either divert or frighten or distract the device from trace.
As a matter of fact, all known methods – and there are several of them – either need preliminary division of air samples (that decreases significantly the sensitivity, and increases the duration of analysis and complicates the detection process) or determine the structure of a substance by its fragments. If the structure of a compound is complicated, and if this is not the sole substance in the sample (this is a common case), then instrumental inspection methods fail the fulfil the task. The task is beyond their “sense of smell”. That is why specially trained dogs have to be involved as their sense of smell is several times more sensitive than that of a man (which is natural), and even of that of the most complicated devices. However, here occur other problems: for instance, a handful of pepper completely deprives a four-legged “smeller” of an opportunity to spot the required scent. Besides, the dog, like human beings, may be in low spirits, or may have blocked nose, the dog can be diverted or distracted from trace – the criminal world has invented a lot of means. Therefore, the device is needed – an unbiassed, reliable and at the same time highly sensitive and selective one. The Moscow researchers have managed to develop such a device.
The device is based on a completely new principle developed by the Institute of General Physics (Russian Academy of Sciences) jointly with the University of Montana, USA. The essence of the principle is as follows: molecules of the sought substances first “settle” – they are sorbed on a specially processed silicic surface and interact with it. Then the laser beam, figuratively speaking, knocks the molecules off the surface but in a slightly different form. They have become positive ions, which differ from the original molecules by one thing only – a hydrogen ion (proton) is either added to or removed from them.
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