Scientists have discovered that bug that glows in the dark
Researchers remotely detected the buried deadly devices using fluorescent bacteria encased in beads, illuminated by a laser-based scanning system.
Around half a million people around the world are suffering from mine-inflicted injuries, and each year up to 20,000 more people are injured or killed by the devices.
It is estimated that more than 100 million landmines are still buried in more than 70 countries.
The major technical challenge in clearing minefields is detecting the mines.
The technologies used today are not much different from those used in the Second World War, requiring detection teams to risk life and limb by physically entering the minefields.
Now researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel believe they have a potential solution.
Their system combines lasers and bacteria to remotely map the location of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance.
The system is based on the observation that all landmines leak minute quantities of explosive vapours, which accumulate in the soil above them and serve as markers for their presence.
Researchers remotely detected the buried deadly devices using fluorescent bacteria
Our field data show that engineered biosensors may be useful in a landmine detection system
Professor Shimshon Belkin
The researchers molecularly engineered live bacteria that emit a fluorescent signal when they come into contact with these vapours. The signal can be recorded and quantified from a remote location.
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The bacteria were encapsulated in small polymeric beads, which were scattered across the surface of a test field in which real antipersonnel landmines were buried.
Using a laser-based scanning system, the test field was remotely scanned and the location of the buried landmines was determined.
It is believed to be the first ever demonstration of a functional standoff landmine detection system.
Professor Shimshon Belkin, from the Hebrew University's Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences who was responsible for genetically engineering the bacterial sensors, said: "Our field data show that engineered biosensors may be useful in a landmine detection system.
"For this to be possible, several challenges need to be overcome, such as enhancing the sensitivity and stability of the sensor bacteria, improving scanning speeds to cover large areas, and making the scanning apparatus more compact so it can be used on board a light unmanned aircraft or drone."
The findings were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.