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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Experts tackle bio-terror threat
Colour detection of toxins
Liquid changes colour in presence of hazardous substances
The fight against bio-terrorism and crime is being showcased by a number of universities and research groups engaged in cutting edge technology.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has produced a liquid which will change colour in the presence of toxins, bacteria or viruses.

The UEA device aims to allow for rapid detection by those first on the scene.

Research in Essex and Cambridge was also unveiled by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The exhibition featuring new research into advances in forensic science techniques has been taking place at the City Barbican Hotel in London.

Safe detection

Prof David Russell from UEA said: "Unfortunately today we're worrying about bio-terrorism.

"We recognized the need for a rapid method of detection that the first people at the scene of an incident could use safely.

"We have developed a chemical that can be taken into that environment to provide a quick and safe way of detecting if a particular compound is hazardous."

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has invested 10m in the last year to research new breakthroughs with much of the funding going into develop anti-terrorist devices and systems.

The University of Essex has received 2m to develop a method of using radiation to detect drugs, chemicals, weapons and even abnormal body tissue.

Fingerprint recovery

The are hopeful of developing a device the size of a torch to generate images like x-rays which show up a range of hazardous and potentially dangerous explosives, chemicals and other substances.

They are working in collaboration with the universities of London, Bath and Leeds as well as the Centre for Integrated Photonics in Ipswich.

Essex University is leading a team looking at smaller scanner devices with much lower power needs which could also be used by doctors to diagnose a wide range of conditions away from a hospital setting.

Owlstone of Cambridge is one of the smaller companies in the field which has invented a button-sized device to detect poisonous or toxic fumes and gases.

Other recent advances put on show include methods for improving fingerprint recovery from gun cartridges and bomb fragments.

A portable DNA profiling technique that could be used at the scene of a crime was also unveiled along with research into more accurate ways of finding out the age at death of victims of crime.


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