BUFFALO, N.Y. -- While it might be very difficult to detect
benign chemicals that could make an explosive when mixed together,
it is not nearly as difficult to detect traces of potentially
dangerous chemicals on the fingers of individuals who recently have
been in contact with them.
At the University at Buffalo's multidisciplinary Center for
Unified Biometrics and Sensors, (CUBS) researchers from several
academic departments have proposed development of a biometric
sensor that could detect such traces on the fingers of airline
"An individual never can be absolutely certain that he or she
has completely eliminated all traces of such chemicals from their
skin," said Venu Govindaraju, Ph.D., CUBS director and professor of
computer science and engineering.
Such a biometric sensor could be programmed to detect traces of
certain chemicals, Govindaraju said. Such a sensor could be
programmed to detect numerous potentially hazardous or questionable
substances or chemicals simultaneously, he said. The sensor also
could capture multiple modalities, such as fingerprints, palm
prints and hand geometry.
Govindaraju is working on this project with colleague Frank
Bright, Ph.D., UB Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the
College of Arts and Sciences; Alexander Cartwright, Ph.D.,
professor, and Albert Titus, Ph.D., assistant professor, both in
the Department of Electrical Engineering in the School of
Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The UB researchers began designing the device nearly a year ago
in the context of cross-border security, specifically in Western
New York, which is home to several busy U.S.-Canada border
In that context, the researchers proposed that fingerprint
sensors could be accessed during the conversation that border
crossers have with customs agents before being allowed into the
country; such access could even be automated, Govindaraju said.
Detection of legitimate chemical traces, such as pharmaceuticals
for instance, could trigger a request for a prescription so that
ordinary commerce and transportation would not be significantly
impacted, he said.
The CUBS researchers are exploring funding opportunities for
such a biometric sensor.
Other CUBS projects are funded by the U.S. Department of
Defense, the National Science Foundation, the New York State Office
for Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) and CUBRC,
as well as private companies throughout the U.S.
Govindaraju noted that CUBS takes a unique approach to
developing technologies in biometrics, combining and "tuning"
different biometrics to fit specific applications.
The goal of CUBS is to research and develop customized biometric
systems for specific applications, such as homeland security and
public health, based on nontraditional biometrics, such as chemical
and biological markers, as well as traditional ones, like the shape
of the iris and hand geometry.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York.