The Search for Buried Landmines: Glowing Bacteria and Lasers are Here to Help!

Khryss | Published 2017-04-19 19:02
Landmines have definitely been an effective tool in eliminating one's enemies- in your fun games' battlefield and even in the bloody real life. Having more than 100 million of such hidden deadly weapon buried in over 70 countries, around 15 to 20 thousand people each year have in fact been killed and injured by this. (Now that's really disturbing.) Since World War II, techniques for detecting these explosives remain fairly the same: teams armed with metal detectors just roam around the site which is obviously very risky. Hence, better techniques for detecting them are needed. (ENTER LASERS AND BACTERIA) And that's what researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been trying to create. Now, a potential system of detecting landmines which uses a combination of lasers and bacteria (sounds cool, eh?) are assumed to remotely map the location of buried landmines. This is based on the observation that landmines, specifically TNT, expel small quantities of explosive vapors (DNT) which would gather on the soil above them, consequently serving as an indication of where they are. So, they used genetically modified bacteria (Escherichia coli or E.coli) that emit a fluorescent light when they come into contact with these explosive vapors. These bacteria are then encapsulated and scattered across a test field where real landmines were buried. After that, using a laser-based scanning system, the test field was scanned remotely from 20 meters away. And guess what? The location of the landmines were found! "Our field data show that engineered biosensors may be useful in a landmine detection system," said Prof. Shimshon Belkin, who was responsible for genetically engineering the bacteria. "For this to be possible, several challenges need to be overcome, such as enhancing the sensitivity and stability of the sensor bacteria, improving scanning speeds to cover large areas, and making the scanning apparatus more compact so it can be used on board a light unmanned aircraft or drone." Way to go!
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