updated 01:15 pm EST, Fri March 9, 2007
World's first 'tricorder'
A new device developed at Purdue University should finally allow mobile, non-invasive substance analysis, much like the tricorders used in Star Trek, says EETimes. The unnamed prototype is essentially a portable mass spectrometer, the key innovation being the use of an ion trap, which lets users place the scanner next to the target. Current spectrometers often require samples to be physically inserted. The Purdue device is also substantially lighter, weighing a mere 20 pounds compared to 300-pound units in some airports, and still fits a hard drive and Windows-based control system. If mass-produced it could also cost as little as $2,000, Purdue scientists say, and be used in everything from food testing to medical scans. The first commercial rollout of the device is in progress, but is only intended for laboratories.