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November 12, 2019

WPI to develop underground bomb-detecting bacteria for Raytheon

Photo | Grant Welker Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Waltham defense contractor Raytheon has partnered with Worcester Polytechnic Institute to develop bacterial strains to detect buried explosives by glowing if they find any.

The project, dubbed The Subterranean Surveillance program, will use synthetic biology to create two strains, according to Raytheon, with one detecting the presence or absence of explosives buried underground and then the second strain producing a glowing light on the surface. With this biotechnology, remote cameras or unmanned aerial vehicles can then be used to survey large areas for the luminescence.  

Synthetic biology combines principles of electrical engineering with computer science to modify DNA. According to Raytheon, bomb-detecting bacteria already exists, but the challenge is finding a solution to penetrate the ground to detect buried explosives and still provide an indication on the surface if explosives are found.

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