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Powder-scanning biochip identifies illegal drugs

A biochip that can identify illicit drugs could be on the market soon. Such a product has been developed in Taiwan.

Embedded in the chip is a microtransmitter, which scans powder with electromagnetic radiation at a range of THz (terahertz) and reports the exact chemical makeup of that powder. In a series of tests, the scans distinguished cocaine powder from flour in just 5 seconds. Other drugs in powder form were detected as well, and officials have high hopes for use of the biochips around the world.

The illicit-drug-scanning biochip is to be presented in America next month at a meeting for the Optical Society of America in Long Beach, Calif. The powder-scanning chip is part of a wider path of research into THz imaging, which will also include a scanning device that can identify plastic explosives in luggage.

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