Scientist have come up with a new handheld device that could have walked right out of a science fiction show like Star Trek. It's a portable scanner that can determine the chemical composition of an object or detect trace elements on its surface:
The chemical analysis tool sprays a fine mist of charged water droplets onto an object. The water droplets cling to particles on the surface of the object. The ionized particles are separated and dried out; the chemicals that remain thus provide a chemical map to the surface of the item tested or the object itself. If there are skin cells or other organic tissue on something, the device will detect it.
The system is really a combination of two existing devices, said R. Graham Cooks, the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry in Purdue University's College of Science. The first is a DESI, or desorption electrospray ionization, the component that creates the fine mist. The other is a handheld spectrometer.