A few weeks ago, I wrote a post here about two cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court about police use of drug-sniffing dogs: Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris. But now comes news that technology may take us a step further than those cases would. It seems that scientists have built a device that mimics the power and accuracy of the canine nose.
Professors Carl Meinhart and Martin Moskovits at the University of California at Santa Barbara have engineered a device that uses a computer chip to imitate the extreme sensitivity of the cells in dogs’ noses using “microfluidic nanotechnology.” According to Dr. Brian Piorek, whose company, SpectraFluidics, has patented and exclusively licensed the technology, “Our patented nanoscale vapor detection platform has enabled us to create a … chip that biomimics a dog’s keen sense of smell.” The bottom line is that this device is highly sensitive to vapor molecules that are an important part of TNT. The full story is here. And here is the an abstract for a study the scientists published on the technology in the journal Analytical Chemistry. According to another story on the technology, there is no apparent reason that the device could not be built to detect almost any other type of vapor molecule, including of course vapor molecules from narcotics. According to Professor Moskovits, “The paper we published focused on explosives, but it doesn’t have to be explosives.”
…[T]he Court’s analysis is so unbounded that if a device were developed that could detect, from the outside of a building, the presence of cocaine inside, there would be no constitutional obstacle to the police cruising through a residential neighborhood and using the device to identify all homes in which the drug is present.