A British invention that can detect minute traces of a wide range of explosives could provide significant help in securing our transport networks from terrorist attacks.
Selective Antibodies Ltd, founded by Professor Colin Self, produces a range of inexpensive detection systems capable of indicating the presence of small molecules, including a number of difficult to detect explosive compounds.
It’s dipstick style devices are simple and require a minimum of training to use – a positive result produces a visual indicator on a test strip, similar to over-the-counter pregnancy test kits.
It is also significantly less expensive than other technologies such as spectrometers, X-rays and neutron activation. Unlike sniffer dogs, the test kits can be stored for long periods of time and then deployed as required.
Speaking to SecurityNewsDesk, Prof Self described his company’s “See it on a stick” detection system. He said it is capable of detecting trace amounts of PETN, a notoriously difficult explosive to test for: “It can detect minute traces of explosives down to the parts per billion level as a simple positive red line on a dipstick and is believed to have clear complementary advantages over widely used electronic detection systems. At a fraction of the cost, highly portable and requiring minimal operator training it is aimed at making the world a safer place.”
A former intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that detection systems of this type had the potential to significantly tip the odds in favour of the police and intelligence services. “The reports we are seeing in the press are a clear indication that there is very real intelligence that an attack has not just been planned but that the intelligence agencies also believe the capability exists. Any reliable detection techniques can only help thwart potential attacks from achieving their goals,” he said.