68 innovations

Bee sniffing technolgy detects dangerous vapours

As far back as 1999, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Controlled Biological Systems Program funded a bee-training program to detect buried landmines, so that many thousands of acres of the world's land could be productively farmed without encountering landmines the ugly way.

A bee's natural instinct is to extend its proboscis when it encounters a desirable odor, anticipating the taste of a flower, let's say. But the bees used in the 1999 DARPA experiment were trained, via classical Pavlovian conditioning, to respond to the odor of TNT instead. Their reward when they responded with a Proboscis Extension Reflex (PER), was a taste of sweet syrup. Then, trainers attached small diodes onto the backs of TNT-trained bees and used handheld radar tracking devices to chart where the bees went.

In 2010, bee training in the fields of defense and security, medicine, food, and building industries is big business. Bee training is essentially the same as it was in 1999, but the results are attained with more sophisticated and less expensive technology.

Inscentinal Ltd. has been working on developing very unique sensing instruments that couple the biological performance of honeybees with the technology to translate bee response into an electronic response. Inscentanil's first proprietary design is a hand held device called the VASOR136, a trace vapor detection unit that is very versatile.

The VASOR136 contains 36 cartridges each containing one bee. Filtered in by a standard gas mask cartridge is a constant supply of clean air. When an operator presses a button on the VASOR, an air sample is taken from the environment that exposes the bees to ambient, unfiltered air. If the bees have been trained to respond to a vapor in that air, the bees will exhibit a PER response and the response will be translated by the VASOR into a simple result shown on the PDA screen display.

Source: physorg.comAdded: 13 April 2010