Researchers have designed a way to sense dangerous chemicals using, in part, a simple rig consisting of a smartphone and a box made from Lego bricks. The device could help first responders and scientists in the field identify deadly and difficult-to-detect nerve agents such as VX and sarin. The new methodology combines a chemical sensor with photography to detect and identify different nerve agents -- odorless, tasteless chemical weapons that can cause severe illness and death, sometimes within minutes. The new device uses affordable, accessible materials to make an earlier compound more useful in real-world scenarios. The chemical sensors generate fluorescence, which is key to the analysis. Different colors and brightness can signal to first responders which of several nerve agents are present, and in what amount. Because different categories of nerve agents require different decontamination procedures and different treatments for victims -- and because the weapons act swiftly, making time of the essence -- these variations are key.
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