Want To Hold Up An ATM? No... You Don't!



Bombardier beetle is inspiration for burglar deterent: image via ethz.chBombardier beetle is inspiration for burglar deterent: image via ethz.chAre you wondering what this beetle has to do with holding up an ATM? Well, this innocent looking bombardier beetle is not so innocent; in fact, this beetle is the inspiration for a foam bomb developed to explode in a burglar's face if he tries to mess with an ATM.

The bombardier emits a poisonous explosion that surprises and even kills some of its predators, what researchers at ETH Zürich call the "most aggressive chemical defense system in nature."  When the bombardier is threatened, it emits two chemicals, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide, that are united in a special section of the beetle's abdomen, where catylitic enzymes trigger an explosion.


Bombardier beetle releases its chemical defense system: image via apologeticspress.orgBombardier beetle releases its chemical defense system: image via apologeticspress.org

The researchers developed a similar chemical defense mechanism made of two layers of 'honeycomb' plastic flim. One layer's pores contain hydrogen peroxide and the other's contain manganese dioxide; between the layers there is a coating of clear lacquer. On impact, the lacquer dissipates and the two explosive liquids collide, exploding in a hot foam.

The beauty of the interaction of the hydrogen peroxide and the manganese dioxide is that they require no mechanical intervention to release their explosion.  Although other theft-prevention devices have been developed, they rely on a motor that is triggered by a sensor.  The ETH Zürich development is more simple, and a lot less expensive.

5 Euro Banknote dyed blue by self-defense system: image via ethz.ch5 Euro Banknote dyed blue by self-defense system: image via ethz.chThe team developed an equally ingenious film to protect cash boxes. This film contains manganese dioxide in one layer and a dye in the other layer along with DNA nanoparticles.  If the box is tampered with, the dye and the DNA particles are released which identifies the money and renders it useless.

“When you see how elegantly nature solves problems, you realise how deadlocked the world of technology often is,” says Wendelin Jan Stark, a professor from the ETH Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences. "“This could be used anywhere you find things that shouldn't be touched,” said Stark. In agriculture and forestry, for example, it could be used to keep animals from gnawing on trees."

I'm not so sure I support that last use, but this development does look like it has wide applications, and maybe it could even be developed for protection of personal belongings in our homes and offices.


source: ETH Zürich


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