Though Homeland Security is scrapping its color coded terror alert system, researchers at Colorado State University are working to make green the color of anti-terror vigilance. Biologists there have developed plant proteins capable of screening the air for hints of dangerous substances, including those given off by nearby explosives.
Plants are already imbued with evolutionary defense mechanisms that help them detect and respond to threats. Receptor proteins in plants' DNA respond to certain stimuli with certain biological responses. The CSU team—backed by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research as well as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency--has engineered proteins to respond to invisible threats like environmental pollutants or traces of explosives with visible responses.
The proteins are designed for integration into unassuming and unobtrusive chemical sensors. In airports or sporting arenas, for instance, plants that came in contact with trace chemicals from explosives would blanch white, visibly alerting nearby security personnel that explosives are in the vicinity. Currently the CSU lab has developed plants that turn white in the presence of TNT and is working with Homeland Security to create horticulture-based sensors for a variety of other chemical stimuli, though deployment of terror-fighting foliage is still a few years away. Once perfected, they could be as sensitive as a dog's nose.
Perhaps best of all: the ability to monitor for dangerous substances is embedded in plant proteins rather than specific plants themselves, so they can be integrated into any plant. That means terror-proofing your apartment won't mess up your feng shui.
this is VERY interesting. too bad it might not work as fast as we want. if the explosives are in an air tight seal, they wont be detected, though, so it's just that easy to get past.
if it works the way i think it works, it will be just like a dogs nose, they can pick up otherwise undetectable traces of drugs, even those sealed in airtight bags/containers, watch border wars, those dogs can detect contraband in bags with 10 plus layers of bags and tape, and sometimes hot sauce, if its that sensitive then these plants should have no problem.
Regarding the dog method, most criminals do not wash there hands before or between putting the drugs into containers. It's really the residue that tips the dogs off on "airtight" containers... I know this because I work in corrections and have drug dogs come by often...
airport of the future:
instead of walking through a body scanner, you walk through a garden, and if all plants turn white, a bunch of security gaurds jump you and ur history...
a lot less intrusive than a pat-down.
All the pretty flowers spontaneously change their mood when they see a dangerous person.
That would be cool to see.
Oh, wait, make them carnivorous to the explosives!
I bet this could be used to detect dangerous aerosols and gases such as carbon monoxide, biological agents, nerve gas, etc.
For those commenting on the potential speed issue, I know *MOST* plants are slow (by our standards) to react, but there are some out there that are very fast indeed. Check out the Mimosa pudica or "Sensitive Plant" it reacts to being touched instantly by folding it's leaves and "wilting" if this blanching effect could be as effective as the Mimosa pudica's reactions then it would be rather effective. Last time I checked, it takes hours to get on a plane, lol
someone is paranoid.