URI Professor designs vapor-based explosive detector

By Kirsten Glavin



KINGSTON, RI –  After 8 years of late nights in the lab and about a million dollars worth of funding, University of Rhode Island Professor, Otto Gregory has developed a new type of technology he hopes will save lives for years to come.

"The whole point is to alert the right folks that there is a threat of an explosive in the environment, in the room, in the corridor, wherever you are,” explained Otto Gregory, Professor of Chemical Engineering.

The professor, who has worked at URI for 38 years, has invented a new highly sensitive explosive detector.  One that may help ward off terrorism by identifying the commonly used explosive, TATP.

"We need to get it out there because of the Paris bombings and because of situations like that,” Gregory said.

Instead of a typical swab for particles many see done at airport security checkpoints, his new sensor sniffs out explosive vapors in the air, much like a trained dog would do.  But this technology may be even more reliable.

"You’re not going to get 8 hours a day out of a bomb sniffing dog. You’re going to get a smaller portion of that,” Gregory added.

Gregory and his assistant Zachary Caron told ABC6 the device first needs to be tested out, outside of the lab, during the next year.  If the data remains consistent and all goes according to plan, they hope to see the detector, worth between $1-2k, in airports, seaports and other confined spaces, within the next few years.

"This is a pressing issue today, and we really want to get this on the market as soon as possible,” said Zachary Caron, a URI Graduate Student assisting the project.