Israeli mice sniff out bombs and vice

2012-11-14 19:52

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tel Aviv - An Israeli company is aiming to revolutionise the way explosives, money and narcotics are detected at airports, docks and border crossings with the help of specially trained covert agents.

These agents, however, aren't just any regular agents. They are mice, which are being used as sniffer animals for the first time

The system, developed by the Herzliya-based BioExplorers, is simple: A traveller stands inside a small booth and is hit by a gentle blast of air that is then sucked into an small opaque chamber, where a group of eight mice are on duty.

After eight seconds, assuming the subject is all clear, a green light appears and the barrier opens.

Reporting compartment

But if the air smells of a suspicious a material the mice have been trained to detect, they gather in the so-called reporting compartment, which raises an alarm.

"The idea began in 2000-2001, when there were many suicide bombings on [Israeli] buses," said BioExplorers founder and chief technology officer Eran Lumbroso at the Israel Homeland Security exhibition in Tel Aviv, where he displayed his mechanism for the first time.

"I was in the army at the time, and the idea emerged to use small animals instead of dogs in detecting suicide bombers."

After leaving the army in 2004, Lumbroso continued work on the project, running tests with different types of animals, portals and training methods.

Mice were eventually chosen because of their keen noses and diminutive size.

"They can be trained to sniff out drugs, money, even remainders of pesticides on agricultural produce," explains Lumbroso, who is a biologist.

Easily trained


"They have a very developed sense of smell, more than that of dogs," he said, pointing out that sniffer dogs can also be intrusive and sometimes intimidating to their subjects.

"The mice can also be easily trained, and thanks to their small size, you can use a small group of them and have multiple sensors," says Lumbroso.

The booths contain three sections, or cartridges, roughly the size of a small microwave oven, stacked one on top of the other, which are each home to eight mice.

Each group of rodents works a four-hour shift, before the flow of air is automatically diverted to the next cartridge in line.

The cartridges contain food and water which are renewed every 14 days when they are removed for cleaning and servicing.

Better than lab mice

BioExplorers says the mice enjoy much better conditions than those of standard lab mice. They are trained over two months, with each mouse able to work for an 18-month period.

In December 2010, a BioExplorers booth was placed at the entrance to a Tel Aviv shopping mall and more than a thousand people passed through it, among them 20 test subjects carrying suspect material.

"Over 1 200 people passed through. There was one false alarm, and all of the initiated targets were detected," Lumbroso said.

While mice would not be efficient in detecting metals, which do not have a powerful odour, they can be trained to react to different kinds of narcotics, and dozens of kinds of explosives emanating from roughly 15 different "families" of materials, said Lumbroso.

Money

They can even detect the particular smell of money.

Full body scanners now being used in many international airports only alert examiners to suspicious shapes, while the mice efficiently zero in on suspicious odours they have been trained to identify, Lumbroso said.

The mice also outdo the trace detection machines which, analyse swabs wiped over people's hands and clothes, said Lumbroso.

The company says it has a prototype of the system available which will be piloted next year.

But mice are more than just efficient bomb detectors - they can also be used in the medical field, including the early detection of cancer, Lumbroso said.

"People in the early stages of breast and lung cancer exhale certain particles," he said. "The mice could be trained to sniff them out."

Read more on:    israel
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Travel
 

LOL treadmill fail!

Watch this hilarious clip! We think this man should rather be running outside this summer!

 
 

I love summer.24

Google’s top searches of 2014
10 of the strangest Christmas traditions around the world
2014's best drone videos
7 drinks you need to make this party season

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

15% off LEGO

Save 15% when you buy 2 or more Lego toys. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is time to explore. Some of you will literally go on holiday while others may need to find other outlets to quench your thirst...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.