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Imagine That! -- "Nanowires"

Imagine That!
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Imagine That! -- "Nanowires"

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

What's the best way to sniff out bombs? Some scientists are exploring "explosive" new technologies!

Imagine That!

(SOUND: sniffing dogs)

Could bomb-sniffing dogs soon find themselves on the canine unemployment line? Scientists creating silicon sensors recently discovered that silicon polymer nanowires--thousands of times thinner than a human hair--behave as mini-sensors that can detect explosives.

(SOUND: bomb exploding)

Bill Trogler, a professor at the University of California at San Diego--and a researcher on the project--says the nanowires selectively absorb molecules, like TNT, which cause changes in luminescence.

Trogler: "The way that the luminescence is generated is by shining a black light on the polymer and it glows intensely green and in the presence of an explosive, it grows dark."

(SOUND: tap water faucet turns on)

The nanowires can even detect carcinogenic chromium and arsenic in drinking water. In the future, people with diabetes might have nanowires implanted to mointor their glucose levels. Cancer patients might ingest particles smart enough to find cancer cells--and better yet, destroy them.

Like a tiny robotic gumshoe, this new nanotechnology is booking chemical criminals just about at the speed of...light! I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf. gov.

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