Monday, November 16, 2009

Glowing bugs could find landmines

Monday, 16 November 2009
BBC News

Bacteria which glow green in the presence of explosives could provide a cheap and safe way to find hidden landmines, Edinburgh scientists claim.

The bugs can be mixed into a colourless solution, which forms green patches when sprayed onto ground where mines are buried.

Edinburgh University said the microbes could be dropped by air onto danger areas.

Within a few hours, they would indicate where the explosives can be found.

The scientists produced the bacteria using a new technique called BioBricking, which manipulates packages of DNA.

Alistair Elfick, from the university's school of engineering, who supervised the student-led project, said: "This anti-mine sensor is a great example of how innovation in science can be of benefit to wider society.

"It also demonstrates how new scientific techniques can allow molecules to be designed for a specific purpose."

Each year, between 15,000 and 20,000 people are killed or injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance, according to the charity Handicap International.

Some 87 countries are riddled with minefields, including Somalia, Mozambique, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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