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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.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
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.

HIRSHON:
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.