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Dog Sniffing Device More Effective in Detecting Explosives

Dec 03, 2016 04:38 AM EST
Dog sniffing device more effective in detecting explosives
A New York Police officer and a sniffer dog stand guard as people wait at Times Square New York City. The “active sniffing” of dogs has been proven to boost these electronic detectors by 10 times. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

Researchers from the government and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have taken a cue from man's best friend to improve current explosive and contraband detection technology. "Active sniffing" has been proven to boost these electronic detectors by 10 times, as published in Scientific Reports.

"The dog is an active aerodynamic sampling system that literally reaches out and grabs odorants," explained Matthew Staymates. A mechanical engineer and fluid dynamicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Staymates knew dogs held the key to bomb sniffing technology. "It uses fluid dynamics and entrainment to increase its aerodynamic reach to sample vapors at increasingly large distances. Applying this bio-inspired design principle could lead to significantly improved vapor samplers for detecting explosives, narcotics, pathogens, even cancer."

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration worked with Staymates to attach a dog-nose-inspired adapter to the front end of a commercially available explosives detector. The 3-D printed artificial dog nose resulted in active sniffing improved odorant detection by up to 18 times, depending on the distance from the source.

Staymates patterned the device after the external features of a female Labrador retriever's nose, imitating the shape, direction, and spacing of the nostrils as closely as possible. Inhaling and exhaling at the same rate that a dog does allow them to mimic the air sampling or sniffing of canines.

Using high-speed video and schlieren imaging, which is a technique widely used in aeronautical engineering to view the flow of air around objects, the team first confirmed that their imitation nose could indeed sniff much like the real thing, a property documented in previous studies of live dogs.

"Their incredible air-sampling efficiency is one reason why the dog is such an amazing chemical sampler," Staymates shared. "It's just a piece of the puzzle. There's lots more to be learned and to emulate as we work to improve the sensitivity, accuracy and speed of trace-detection technology."

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