IIT Bombay researchers design portable explosives detection device

Researchers at the National Center of Excellence in Homeland Security Technology (NCETIS) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, have designed a hand-held explosives detection device capable of detecting explosives.

Director Subhasis Chaudhuri announced on Tuesday that some units of the device are now in use by the Travancore Devaswom Trust in Sabarimala, Kerala.

“The Trivandrum Police asked us to do a live demonstration of the department’s supply,” said Seema Periwal, senior program director for NCETIS. Six units of BEAGLEZ are also used by three departments of the Indian Army.

BEAGLEZ is a lightweight hand-held device capable of detecting trinitrotoluene (TNT), hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX), pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), Semtex and d ‘other plastic explosives used in homemade military explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The device can find application in screening people, checkpoints, post-explosion searches, vehicles, buildings, terrorist hot spots, important places, overcrowded establishments and the environment.

BEAGLEZ was designed and marketed by a team of researchers led by Anil Kumar, professor in the chemistry department at IIT Bombay, in collaboration with Bigtec Labs, a science and technology company based in Bengaluru. The device has sensitivities which can be at the same level as the canines.

The first two units of BEAGLEZ were donated by Bigtec to the Sabarimala Temple Trust which has now expressed interest in purchasing the product.

The device uses fluorescent amplifying polymers (AFP) for detection. AFPs are conjugated polymers that exhibit solid state fluorescence when excited by light of a particular wavelength. “There is a polymer coating on the device’s sensor. A capillary unit sucks in air and when air passes over this coating, the coating glows. However, if there is an explosive in the air, the polymer will stop glowing, ”Kumar said.

Although the device has a worldwide patent for its technology, it also has three other device design patents to its name. “We are constantly working on improving the design and we adhere to global standards for the same,” Kumar said.

Bigtec is the only native manufacturer of the portable explosives detector. “BEAGLEZ is the smallest and lightest in its class and requires no additional accessories. While an import brand of handheld detector can cost around 18 to 22 lakhs, the sale price of BEAGLEZ is in a range of 12 to 15 lakhs depending on the volumes, ”said Periwal.

“We believe that BEAGLEZ will play a catalytic role in the ‘Make-in-India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiatives. We look forward to seeing the use of this product in various strategic locations, ”Chaudhuri said.

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