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US grabs wallet-sized bomb detector created by Indian scientist

world Updated: Aug 03, 2013 11:21 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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When Reny Roy was assigned a project 15 years ago, she had no idea it would one day get a Washington DC debut as India's first defense technology transfer to the United States.

The project headed by Roy, a scientist at DRDO's explosives lab in Pune, led to the creation of Explosive Detection Kit (EDK), which makes it easy to detect all kinds of explosive, especially those used by terrorists.

The kit was launched in Washington on Friday for production and sale in the US and other countries in the region, by Crowe and Company, a South Carolina firm.

It is currently undergoing tests by US military and other security agencies but may soon be headed for use by coalition forces in Afghanistan through a non-profit.

The EDK, as the kit is known to its creators and users, is inexpensive - but no one will talk about the price; it's easy to carry and dispose and has no health risks.

"It feels great," said Roy after the launch with her boss SN Asthana, a man of few words, standing by her side.

Roy got the project "around 1997" with a brief to develop something to stop terrorists. But it was not a priority, not like DRDO's more glamorous Agni, Arjun and the LCA projects.

The Pune lab scientists got down to it and kept at it through many prototypes - some that worked, and some that did not. Every stage was an improvement on the last one.

The kit comes in various forms - one that can fit in your child's lunch box, one that can go into your husband's shirt pocket (or wife's purse) or something bigger and more substantial.

Based on principles of "colour chemistry", the kit uses reagents - chemical substances that trigger chemical reactions - to detect explosive types by resulting colours.

A few drops or a blast of atomized reagents on suspected explosive material can within minutes confirm, or deny, the presence of explosives - TNT, PETN, or RDX.

The kit is widely used in India, marketed by a company licensed by DRDO, which owns the patent, to produce and market it, by law enforcement and other security agencies.

Investigators looking at the German Bakery blast of 2010 in Pune used the kit to immediately identify the explosive used as RDX.

"The kit helps in the identification of explosives both pre and post blasts," said Asthana.

Fay Crowe, owner of the company now manufacturing the selling these kits in the US, said she believed the kit could have prevented the Boston Marathon explosions.