Curry Spice 'Can Spot Explosives'

Turmeric chemical used to detect TNT
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2011 3:45 AM CDT
Turmeric, a plant in the ginger family, has long been used in cooking and medicine.   (?missmeng)
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(Newser) – An ingredient commonly found in curry powder could make the world a safer place as well as a spicier one, researchers say. Circumin, the main chemical in the spice turmeric, can be used to create a cheap way of spotting explosives, according to research presented to the American Physical Society. The chemical—already known for its anti-cancer properties—changes its light-emitting property as it encounters molecules of explosive material in the air, reports the BBC.

"If you have a gram of TNT, and you sample a billion air molecules from anywhere in the room, you'll find four or five molecules of TNT—that's the reason they're so hard to detect," the lead researcher told the conference. "The US State Department estimates there are up to 70 million land mines throughout the world. We need a very portable, field-deployable sensing device which is cheap, very sensitive, and easy to handle."

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