"For more than two decades, Lawrence Livermore scientists have been among the leaders in developing miniaturized electronic tools to detect chemical, seismic, magnetic, pressure, acoustic, and nuclear signals. For example, Livermore researchers have built highly accurate and extremely sensitive sensors that can detect trace amounts of airborne radioactive contaminants emanating from a suspected nuclear weapons facility. The Laboratory is now working to meet the requests of Departments of Defense and Homeland Security planners for lightweight, accurate, and inexpensive handheld sensors to sniff out deadly chemicals, including chemical weapons on the battlefield and toxic compounds that could be used in a terrorist attack. The ambitious goal is to simultaneously fulfill the requirements of small size, low power consumption, rapid and reliable detection of chemicals at extremely low concentrations, ruggedness for potentially harsh environments, and low cost per unit for mass production and widespread use. A team of physicists, chemists, and engineers is working toward this goal with a new sensing device that selectively identifies chemicals of interest from a typical background 'soup' of airborne compounds, using minuscule diving boards called microcantilevers. The Livermore electronic nose can detect nearly any chemical vapor, including chemical warfare agents, once the sensor has been 'trained' to recognize them. The device has reliably detected 11 different chemical vapors, plus the chemical warfare agents VX and sulfur mustard, representing a wide breadth of chemical classes."
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: https://www.llnl.gov/
Science & Technology Review (January/February 2009)