A team led by Edward Marcotte and Eric Anslyn from the Univ. of Texas at Austin has invented a new method of detecting nerve agents with a simple device that can be constructed of Lego building blocks and a smartphone. And, they have made their analytic code, image guides, and design information freely available online to encourage others to create their own detector devices.
Nerve agents are some of the most deadly chemical weapons ever developed. They are odorless, tasteless, and lethal at very low doses. There are two main classes of nerve agents: G-series (phosphoryl fluorides) and V-series (phosphoryl thiols). G-series, named for the German scientists who first synthesized them, include the well-known nerve agents sarin, soman, and tabun.
Both classes could endanger large communities of people if used in a terrorist attack. The two classes require different decontamination procedures; however, many existing tools for detecting nerve agents cannot distinguish between G-series and V-series agents. The researchers...
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