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High-tech drug sensors could replace sniffer dogs

Issue date:
07 February 2012
Media coverage 
Sniffer dog sniffing a suitcase being held on the lead by male handler

EPSRC has awarded researchers at City University London £140,000 to further develop sensors which could replace sniffer dogs in the hunt for drugs.

Collaborating with the Home Office Scientific Development Branch and Smiths Detection on the technology, Professor Tong Sun and her team aim to create a portable prototype with real-time, multi-drug sensing capability, which can find illegal substances in hard-to-reach areas such as vehicles and containers that are crossing borders.

In 2010, the UK Border Agency made more than 1,200 individual seizures of Class A drugs totalling 3,000kg. This clearly puts pressure on sniffer dogs and staff. The aim of the new technology is to make the process of detecting illegal substances easier, more cost effective and more reliable.

The research builds on a previous EPSRC-supported project that uses fibre- based optical sensors to detect cocaine and which has been successfully developed and evaluated.

The team intends to use the follow-on funding from EPSRC to develop the technology to a stage that it can be licensed to an existing manufacturer, currently supplying drug detection devices to the border security agencies around the world.