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  A ‘five-in-one’ detection system for airlines?

This is Science Today. A new detection system that may one day be used to screen airplane passengers and baggage is being developed by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Staff scientist George Farquar says the system, called Single-Particle Aerosol Mass Spectrometry, or SPAMS, can detect tiny, dust-size particles.

Farquar: The real advantage of single particle mass aerosol spectrometry over a lot of other techniques is it's able to detect incredibly tiny, single dust particles in a huge background of other dust particles. And if someone has a small amount of material on them that shouldn't be there, a lot of times you could lose that information just because it's a small percentage of the total.

Narrator: Another advantage with the SPAMS technique, is it's designed to be a five-in-one detector.

Farquar: So, we have a five-in-one detector that detects biological agents, chemical weapons agents, explosives and narcotics along with radioisotopes. At this point, we're looking for a commercial partner so that this can be developed and continuing undergoing more improvements and field testing.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.