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Lego Nerve Gas Detector

July 10, 2018

Chemists design a mobile, affordable nerve gas detector out of Lego bricks.

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Made from Lego bricks and a smart phone, a device is connected to free software and utilizes the phone's camera to identify and detect nerve agents, like VX and sarin. (University of Texas at Austin)

Made from Lego bricks and a smart phone, a device is connected to free software and utilizes the phone’s camera to identify and detect nerve agents, like VX and sarin. (University of Texas at Austin)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A Lego nerve gas detector. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

First responders charged with the serious task of detecting the presence of deadly nerve gas can now use a simple device made out of Legos. UT, Austin organic chemist Pedro Metola says conventional nerve gas detectors cost tens of thousands of dollars and are tethered to a laboratory. But in a warzone, time is of the essence. So his team designed a portable detector box using Legos that holds a smartphone. If a sample contains a nerve agent, it will react with chemicals inside the box, producing different colors and intensities of fluorescent light depending on the type and amount present.

PEDRO METOLA (UT, Austin):

Analysis is very very easy, it’s just a matter of taking a picture with your smartphone and processing the data from that picture. 

HIRSHON:

Metola’s team writes in ACS Central Science that the Lego detector can be reconfigured to fit any phone. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

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