PDIDs sniff out bombs and people

Tiny detectors that can sniff out everything from explosives and biotoxins to smuggled humans are being developed by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories. SNL's Ron Manginell and colleagues have worked on new miniature pulsed-discharge ionization detectors, or mini-PDIDs, that have broadened the scope of chemical targets for Sandia’s microanalytical detection technology to toxic industrial chemicals, biological volatiles, greenhouse gases and more first worked on in the 1990s. We now have new detectors with higher sensitivity and broader applicability that would integrate well with the SAW (surface acoustic wave) and micro-GCs (gas chromatographs) to provide both sensitivity, the ability to detect a few molecules of a given compound, and selectivity, the ability to distinguish compounds from one another, Manginell says.