Mike Chino

Scientists Create Bacteria that Glows to Reveal Land Mines

by , 11/17/09

sustainable design, green design, genetic engineering, land mine glowing bacteria, design for health, social responsibility, biobrick land mine bacteria

Land mines are currently strewn throughout 87 of the world’s countries, and each year they cause 15,000-20,000 new casualties, the vast majority of which are inflicted upon civilians. Sifting through minefields to remove these hidden threats is currently a dangerous, tedious, and expensive process, however scientists at the University of Edinburgh recently announced that they have engineered a strain of bacteria that glows green in the presence of explosives, making mine detection a snap.

sustainable design, green design, genetic engineering, land mine glowing bacteria, design for health, social responsibility, biobrick land mine bacteriaPhoto by U.S. Army

According to Edinburgh University scientists, the new strain of bacteria can be sprayed onto local affected areas or air dropped over entire fields of mines. Within a few hours the bacteria strain begins to glow green wherever traces of explosive chemicals are present.

The new strain was produced using a technique called BioBricking, wherein strands of bacterial DNA can be manipulated to express desired traits. The bacteria are cheap, can be easily mass produced, and offer tremendous advances over the cost of removing a land mine using conventional detectors, which can range from $300 to $1,000.

Our only concern is that great care must be taken when blanketing areas with the bacteria, such that their spread doesn’t amount to an act of biological warfare in and of itself.

+ University of Edinburgh

BBC via Treehugger

Lead photo by Clear Path International

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5 Comments

  1. Mines green | Alatisede... May 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    [...] Scientists Create Bacteria that Glows to Reveal Land Mines |According to Edinburgh University scientists, the new strain of bacteria can be sprayed onto local affected areas or air dropped over entire fields of mines. Within a few hours the bacteria strain begins to glow green wherever traces of explosive chemicals are present. [...]

  2. HowardG November 20, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Err – that ordnance is artillary shells, hand grenades and mortars

  3. ASR385 November 20, 2009 at 2:02 am

    I would be concerned about the potential environmental impact that introducing a new species into an ecosystem… We’ve had horrible results with this in the past and this seems like it has that potential as well. What tests are being done to insure that this does not crowd out other species? presumably it grows even when no explosives are present although only glows in their presence.

  4. davidwayneosedach November 19, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    I once worked with Bausch & Lomb to develop bio-luminescent bacteria to sniff out among other things: explosives, hidden people, bad air, etc. It was never taken to market.

  5. AnonymousBosch November 18, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Great idea, except for the 7-10% of (male) human beings who are red-green color blind.

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