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Cell Phone Air Sensors

June 15, 2010

Installing chemical sensors in cell phones could create a worldwide system for identifying dangerous airborne toxins.


Cell phones as first responders. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The Department of Homeland Security wants to put chemical sensors in cell phones – so they can detect toxins in the air, and relay the location to authorities. The University of California at San Diego is developing one sensor in collaboration with a company called Rhevision. According to biochemist Michael Sailor, different areas on the thumbnail-sized chip can be engineered to detect different chemicals.

MICHAEL SAILOR (University of California, San Diego):
Either chemicals that might be coming out of an industrial accident, a Homeland Security kind of event – terrorist event, for example – or even something as simple as carbon monoxide in a conventional fire.

They’ll start by putting the chips in first responders’ cell phones. If that works, the sensor could someday become a standard phone feature, like a web browser or a camera. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.