Asbestos can’t hide anymore!

The news is true. First ever portable ‘asbestos’ detector is now a possibility.

Asbestos is an insidious killer, with a nasty habit of being most deadly when it is least visible. Fortunately, a new device can detect asbestos on site, without a lab test.

In order to help protect the people in construction work, scientists at the University of Hertfordshire have developed what they say is the world’s first portable, real-time detector of airborne asbestos.

The deadly substance:

“Many thousands of people around the world have died from asbestos fiber inhalation,” says Paul Kaye, a member of the team that developed the new detection method at the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics.

“Even today, long after asbestos use was banned in most Western countries, there are many people who become exposed to asbestos that was used in buildings decades earlier, and these people too are dying from that exposure,” he added.

How does the device work?

The Hertfordshire device starts by shining a laser beam into a stream of air. When that laser light strikes a particle of any type, the object scatters the light in a unique pattern that is sufficient to determine the shape, size, and orientation of the particle – in particular, this scattered light pattern lets the device know if the particle is a fiber of some sort. This process also takes place in existing fiber detectors.

From there, however, the air stream continues through a magnetic field. If any of the identified fibers are asbestos, they will align themselves with the direction of that field – it’s a characteristic that’s unique to asbestos.

By once again applying the laser light and analyzing the resulting scatter patterns, the device can tell if the fibers are behaving in this way.

A paper on the research was published in the journal Optics Express.

These sensors will likely be on sale in 12 to 18 months, and at an expected price of $800, they should be affordable for construction companies and even some larger-scale residential renovation projects.