UAlbany researchers use molecular chemistry to protect endangered trees

By Rick Karlin
The Times Union
February 15, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US East

ALBANY, New York — The mass spectrometer in Rabi Musah’s lab at the University at Albany’s chemistry building is so sensitive that it can pick up the molecular fingerprint of almost anything. It’s not uncommon, for instance, for traces of cocaine, fentanyl or other illicit substances to turn up on currency such as dollar bills, she said. …Musah and Coon aren’t looking for drugs though. ….Instead, they are looking for microscopic specks of wood from endangered trees, which have been illegally harvested. …By using the spectrometer, which identifies the atomic weight of a given molecule — and comparing that with what will be an AI-powered database of various endangered wood species — the two women hope to create a device that businesses can use to make sure they aren’t selling an endangered species. …Deployment of the wood detection system is a year to 18 months away, and eventually they hope to develop a hand-held scanner.

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