Engineering students at Edinburgh University have created bacteria that can be used to detect landmines! The cheaply engineered bacteria can be mixed into a colorless fluid which would be sprayed over suspect soil. Chemicals that leak out of old landmines stimulate the bacteria to make a green protein, producing large patches of bright green where bacteria encounter explosive material.

According to the United Nations, between 15,000 and 20,000 people are injured or killed by landmines that litter more than 80 countries including Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The bacteria would likely fail to identify those mines that do not leak, and would detect chemical remnants where mines were once, but are no longer, active. But as the students’ advisor, Alistair Elfick points out, “this anti-mine sensor is a great example of how innovation in science can be of benefit to wider society.”