Researchers in Alberta say they’ve developed a cheap and portable way to detect explosive materials using nothing more than a strip of specially-coated paper and an ultraviolet light.

Christina Gonzalez, a Mitacs researcher, and David Antoniuk of Applied Quantum Materials are able to detect TNT using their paper strips, which are coated with tiny semiconductor particles known as silicon quantum dots.

“If you look at the paper under UV light, it’s going to glow red,” Gonzalez explained Sunday on CTV News Channel. “Once you swipe the surface that could have come into conduct with an explosive such as TNT and re-check the paper under UV light, you’ll see it’s not going to glow anymore.”

Antoniuk said that the value of the new technology is its low cost and portability.

“It would replace the ion mobility spectrometers, those machines you see at the airport that are about the size of a laser printer,” he said.

“It could be used anywhere at any time: in the field, at border crossings at airports. We could put it into any type of paper or cloth, so potentially it could be a glove.”

The company is exploring whether the technology will work with other explosives or even drugs, Antoniuk said.

“We’re getting very close now for a commercial rollout,” he added.