Standoff detection of explosives and buried landmines using fluorescent bacterial sensor cells

Yossef Kabessa*, Ori Eyal, Ofer Bar-On, Victor Korouma, Sharon Yagur-Kroll, Shimshon Belkin, Aharon J. Agranat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


A standoff detection scheme for buried landmines and concealed explosive charges is presented. The detection procedure consists of the following: Live bacterial sensor strains, genetically engineered to produce a dose-dependent amount of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the presence of explosives' vapors, are encapsulated and spread on the suspected area. The fluorescence produced by the bacteria in response to traces of the explosive material in their microenvironment is remotely detected by a phase-locked optoelectronic sampling system. This scheme enables fast direct access to a large minefield area, while obviating the need to endanger personnel and equipment. Moreover, the employment of phase locking detection efficiently isolates the bacterial sensors' fluorescent output from the background optical signals. This facilitates the application of bacterial sensors in an outdoor environment, where control of background illumination is not possible. Using this system, we demonstrate standoff detection of 2,4-DNT both in aqueous solution and when buried in soil, by sensor bacteria either in liquid culture or agar-immobilized, respectively, at a distance of 50 m in a realistic optically noisy environment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)784-788
Number of pages5
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
StatePublished - 15 May 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work in the Belkin lab was partially supported by the Minerva Center for Bio-Hybrid Complex Systems .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Bacterial whole-cell biosensors
  • Explosives
  • Fluorescence
  • GFP reporter gene
  • Remote sensing
  • Standoff detection


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