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BYU licenses chemical sniffing device to Utah company

BYU licenses chemical sniffing device to Utah company



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Ed Yeates and Randall Jeppesen reporting The Department of Homeland Security and the military are buying a new device developed by Brigham Young University that probes and sniffs out dangerous chemicals within seconds. Today, BYU announced the licensing of the new technology to a Utah-based company.

In this era of potential biological or chemical attacks, the government is looking for devices its first responders can run with to quickly identify what weapon is being unleashed. For sci-fi fans who remember Spock using the "Tricorder," well this is the real thing!

BYU licenses chemical sniffing device to Utah company

Developed by BYU chemist Milton Lee, and now licensed to a Utah company called Torion, the device can sample hazardous chemicals on the spot--in the air, on a table, on a chair, on clothing, in water, in food, in the soil. The list goes on!

"Most explosives and nerve agents, and drugs of abuse, toxic chemicals, flammable solvents in arson investigations, these are all chemicals that can be analyzed by this technology," Lee explained.

Again, with all these devices, what the military and homeland security are looking for is portability. In this case, 28 pounds, and this is only about the size of a large briefcase.

A syringe-like device is easily used in one hand, even by a first responder wearing gloves and protective clothing. He pushes the plunger, and a small metal fiber coated with a polymer film comes out to soak up whatever's out there.

He injects the sample into the machine, pushes three buttons, and that's it. Within 65 seconds to five minutes at the most, the detector shows all, even multiple, compounds.

BYU licenses chemical sniffing device to Utah company

Instead of a big, bulky machine in the lab, everything is miniaturized. Even the specially-designed metal ring inside that captures the samples is smaller than a quarter.

Looking for toxic benzenes in water? The time is even less. "It comes from petrochemical products. It comes from solvents that are used. We can detect benzene in water, for example, in about 20 seconds," said Dr. Douglas Later, President of Torion Technologies, Inc.

Development of BYU's device was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. Thirteen of the first 15 machines have been bought by the military and homeland security.

E-mail: eyeates@ksl.com
E-mail: rjeppesen@ksl.com

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