Simple, low cost method helps locate landmines

London, Nov 20 ( A simple, cheap and accurate test finds undetected landmines in a jiffy.

Landmines and unexploded ordnance kill between 15,000 and 20,000 unsuspecting people every year, according to Handicap International.

Students from the University of Edinburgh (U-E) have created a custom-made bacteria that glows green when it comes into contact with chemicals leaked by buried explosives.

The bacteria can be mixed into a colourless solution that, when sprayed on to the ground, forms green patches to indicate the presence of landmines.

“This anti-mine sensor is a great example of how innovation in science can be of benefit to wider society,” said Alistair Elfick of the U-E School of Engineering, who co-supervised the project.

Researchers say that the organism, which is cheap to produce, could be delivered from the air onto areas thought to contain landmines, with results available within a few hours. The bacteria is not dangerous to people or animals.

Global hotspots like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mozambique and Cambodia are among the 87 countries bristling with minefields, said a U-E release.

Scientists and engineers were able to create the bacteria with an emerging technique known as BioBricking.

The tool enables bacteria molecules to be assembled from a range of tiny parts like a very small-scale machine.