Sensor scenarios for nanotech-enabled chemical & biological defense

A new book Nanotechnology for Chemical and Biological Defense, ed. Margaret Kosal (Springer, 2009), includes sensor scenarios for nanotech-based defense against chemical and biological attacks. As is usual with scenario planning, multiple versions are presented, in this case reaching out to the year 2030. Here’s one from the “Radical Game Changers” scenario:

A terrorist organization releases a stealth nanoparticle-encapsulated biochemical agent at eight separate airports outside of the continental US. The initial dissemination of the novel agent is undetected. Passive networks of sensors at two US points of entry, however, recognize an increase in the average elevated temperature of passengers at security checkpoints. Additional sensors show elevated levels of liver enzymes in airport waste streams. Mobile response laboratories, in coordination with National Guard Civil Support teams, are dispatched and identify the causal agent. Intensive forensics reveals that the nanoparticles are engineered to aerosolize easily and then accumulate in the human liver where they slowly release the agent. Countermeasures are administered within 12 hours. In the world of Radical Game Changers, such highly-evolved technologies require equally-evolved detection schemes.

Whew, a scary scenario indeed. Though the defense succeeds in this scenario, it’s clear that the world is a very dangerous place in this vision. One goal for Open Source Sensing would be to head off such scenarios entirely. Meanwhile, take a look at the book for both other long-term scenarios and much nearer-term issues — you can search inside the book at More on this topic over at Foresight’s main blog Nanodot. —Chris Peterson

Leave a Reply