UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) scientist Dr Peter White has developed a new biological device to enable simultaneous sampling and detection of a wide range of hazardous substances and explosive materials.
The Integrated Multiplex Assay and Sampling System (IMASS) is a handheld device that is capable of sampling up to eight targets simultaneously, to help support frontline troops and counter-terrorism personnel.
White said the existing devices did not integrate sampling with detection and cannot be used easily if the operator was wearing gloves.
"This invention combines a mature, established detection technology [similar to that used in pregnancy test kits] into an integrated handheld device that could be used by a generalist front line operator wearing protective clothing," White added.
Licensed to BBI Detection, the patented device can directly test powder, liquids or surfaces, and is soon expected to be employed by first responders in the forensic and security sectors both in the UK and worldwide.
In addition to use in defence applications, such as bio-threat and explosives detection missions, the company has modified IMASS for possible use in surface testing for food allergens or illegal drugs.
BBI Detection managing director Richard Lamotte said the system's ergonomic design features made it particularly suitable for bio-detection in difficult frontline environments.
"It also has a multitude of applications in the wider diagnostic arena," he said. "Discussions with potential customers, both within the UK and further afield, have generated significant interest and anticipation for the launch of the final product."
Dstl has also received funding from the UK Home Office to explore the possibility of IMASS development for use by the emergency services to curb terrorist activities.