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Sensors based on living cells will “sniff” passengers at airports to detect explosives

In the future, airports can count, in addition to police dogs, with sensors based on live cells, to help in the identification of dangerous and explosive chemicals. Through a partnership with the American startup Koniku, the European company Airbus expects to install the equipment from the last three months of the year. The technology could also assist in the detection of COVID-19 cases.

In statements to the Financial Times, Julien Touzeau, head of product security at America at Airbus, ensures that the technology presents a "very fast response time", managing, at best, to make the identification in less than 10 seconds. But the expert explains that the goal of this period is to improve the future.

Smell detection prototype developed for Airbus Source: Financial Times

How is this possible? According to Airbus, the technology developed by the American startup stands out for the fact that it builds "silent processors with living cells". The sensors, purple, and currently in the prototype phase, intend to imitate the processes found in nature.

The system is capable of detecting the smell, breathing in the air and then transmitting the information it is collecting. "What we do take biological cells or brain cells and genetically modify them to have olfactory receptors, explains Oshiorenoya Osh Agabi, founder of the American company.

Being developed since 2017, the goal that technology can also help in the combat COVID-19. What is intended to be able to detect people infected with the virus, and for that, the system will have to include an analysis of "biological risks". Still, it is unlikely to be finished before the development of a vaccine.

In times considered normal, there are countless people traveling in airports and there have been several bets to ensure faster and more effective response mechanisms. In February this year, for example, a new control area was opened at Lisbon airport to process flights mainly from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Croatia, countries outside the Schengen Area. It is estimated that the new system will process 700 passengers per hour and around 30 flights per day.