A press release says: “Johns Hopkins Study Confirms Rapid Detection of Anthrax Attack Best for Beating Terrorists”. This self-evident headline comes from a cutting-edge company Universal Detection Technology (UDT). The company is responsible for a very ingenious and innovative product, that was developed with the technology initially intended for use by NASA: UDT Bacterial Spore Detection System.
The device continuously monitors the air for Anthrax spores, it then uses a microwave to “pop” the spores thus releasing a chemical from inside the spores called dipicolinic acid, which is unique to bacterial spores. This dipicolinic acid instantaneously reacts with the chemical sensor in the solution. The sensor triggers an intense green luminescence when viewed under ultraviolet light. The intensity of the luminescence corresponds to the concentration of bacterial spores in the sample.If an increase in spore concentration is detected, an alarm sounds notifying both a buildings internal security as well as local emergency services through the devices landline or wireless networking capability. The devices response time is 15 minutes, fast enough to help prevent widespread contamination.
The chemical sensor in use is trichloride of terbium. According to the company, the unbound terbium ion has low luminescence intensity. However, binding of the DPA, originating from endospores, and terbium ion gives rise to intense Tb luminescence due to an absorption, energy transfer, emission mechanism, as pictured in the diagram below. In the picture above, the cuvet on the right has a luminescence, indicating the presence of spores of Bacillus anthracis. For an additional info and demo videos, please see UDT website.