Those of us who watch our brave young soldiers on the TV news are often appalled by all the heavy equipment they have to carry, but soon they may be able to detect IEDs with a single sheet of paper.

Researchers have developed a prototype wireless sensor capable of detecting trace amounts of a key ingredient found in many explosives. The device, which employs carbon nanotubes and is printed on paper or paper-like material using standard inkjet technology, could be deployed in large numbers to alert authorities to the presence of explosives, such as improvised explosive devices.

Researcher Krishna Naishadham says, "This prototype represents a significant step toward producing an integrated wireless system for explosives detection. It incorporates a sensor and a communications device in a small, low-cost package that could operate almost anywhere."

The resulting integrated sensing package can potentially detect the presence of trace explosive materials at a distance, without endangering human lives. The wireless sensor nodes require relatively low power, which could come from a number of technologies including thin-film batteries, solar cells or power-scavenging and energy-harvesting techniques.

"We are focusing on providing standoff detection for those engaged in military or humanitarian missions and other hazardous situations," Naishadham says. "We believe that it will be possible, and cost-effective, to deploy large numbers of these detectors on vehicles or robots throughout a military engagement zone." (NOTE: This book is now hard to find in your local bookstore, but you can still get a beautiful hardcover from the Whitley Strieber Collection–and it comes with an autographed bookplate!)

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