The remarkable sensitivity, compactness, low cost, low power-consumption, scalability, and versatility of microcantilever sensors make this technology among the most promising solutions for detection of chemical and biological agents, as well as explosives. The University of Nevada, Reno, and Nevada Nanotech Systems, Inc (NNTS) are currently developing a microcantilever-based detection system that will measure trace concentrations of explosives, toxic chemicals, and biological agents in air. A baseline sensor unit design that includes the sensor array, electronics, power supply and air handling has been created and preliminary demonstrations of the microcantilever platform have been conducted. The envisioned device would measure about two cubic inches, run on a small watch battery and cost a few hundred dollars. The device could be operated by untrained law enforcement personnel. Microcantilever-based devices could be used to “sniff out” illegal and/or hazardous chemical and biological agents in high traffic public areas, or be packaged as a compact, low-power system used to monitor cargo in shipping containers. Among the best detectors for such applications at present is the dog, an animal which is expensive, requires significant training and can only be made to work for limited time periods. The public is already accustomed to explosives and metal detection systems in airports and other public venues, making the integration of the proposed device into such security protocols straightforward.
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