With about one-third of the human diet dependent on insect-pollinated plants, bees play a crucial role in keeping us nourished and healthy. Turns out their salubrious little stingers can also protect us from bomb-wielding terrorists.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed that protein fragments in bee venom, aptly called bombolitins, can be used to detect single molecules of nitro-aromatic explosives, such as TNT. If applied to security sensors at such human hives like airports, the bombolitins will increase the sensitivity of the sensors, making them much more effective.
First, the MIT team coated the insides of carbon nanotubes with bombolitins, then exposed the nanotubes to air samples taken from the vicinity of various explosives. While carbon nanotubes naturally fluoresce, the bombolitins created quite a buzz at the molecular level.