Trained dogs are far better at detecting explosives and narcotics than any known technological device or sensor. But training dogs to detect hazardous substances can dangerous for both the dog and the handler. Scientists at NIST have found a solution by using a special jelly-like substance which absorbs odors and then safely release them over time.
The jelly-like material is PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane). After enclosing it in a container with an explosive or narcotic until it absorbs its odors, you can then use it to safely train dogs to detect the real thing.
The team at NIST uses a group of six labrador retrievers for training. Researcher Bill MacCrehan estimates that dogs are 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than the most sophisticated analytical instruments. "We are nowhere near having a hand-held gizmo that can do what they do," he said.
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