Rats Go High Tech to Root Out Land Mines
Since the invention of land mines some seven centuries ago, activists, researchers and government officials have tried to root out the indiscriminate and deadly weapons with everything from metal detectors and robots to dogs, bees and rats.
The methods have, however, proved dangerous, labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Two Bucknell University professors are working with a U.S. Department of Defense contractor to develop faster and more sophisticated technology and methods to detect land mines. The team has devised a system to train rats to recognize and respond to the explosives, using materials that can be delivered anywhere with instructions that anyone can use.
“This is something that could drop out of the sky and give you everything you need to train rodents to sniff out land mines, even if the people who are using it can’t read or write,” said Kevin Myers, an associate professor of psychology who studies learning, memory and motivation as it relates to appetite and food preferences in rats.
Myers and Joe Tranquillo, associate professor of biomedical and electrical engineering, are working with Coherent Technical Services Inc. (CTSI). The U.S. Army Research Office has awarded the company and Bucknell $100,000 for Phase I of the project. Such contracts are designated for small businesses and academic research partnerships that address real problems with marketable technology.