Imitating the antennas of the silkmoth, Bombyx mori, researchers have designed a system for detecting explosives with unparalleled performance. Made up of a silicon microcantilever bearing nearly 500,000 aligned titanium dioxide nanotubes, this device is capable of detecting concentrations of trinitrotoluene (TNT) of around 800 ppq (1) (i.e. 800 molecules of explosive per 10^15 molecules of air), thereby improving one thousand-fold the detection limit attainable until now. This innovative concept could also be used to detect drugs, toxic agents and traces of organic pollutants.
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