While there’s often a heavy focus on the items coming into the U.S. from Mexico illegally, what about the things going out of the country?

According to the American Chemical Society, billions of U.S. dollars are sent over the border to Mexico and tracking down this activity is harder to detect than drug smuggling. But a new device showcased at ACS’s annual conference could actually track down illegal money smuggling by sniffing it out.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

“We’re developing a device that mimics the function of trained dogs ‘sniffing’ out concealed money, but without the drawbacks, such as expensive training, sophisticated operators, down time and communication limitations,” Dr. Suiqiong Li, a researcher with KWJ Engineering, said in a statement. “The system would extract gas samples from the traveler or from bags, vehicles and shipping containers. It would detect the trace currency emission signature even in the presence of car exhaust, perfumes, food and a range of temperatures, atmospheric pressures and relative humidity.”

“It’s kind of like a doctor when they detect an infection. We have lots of bacteria on us, but when it becomes overwhelming, and then of course it becomes an infection. It’s the same thing with chemicals, vapors and odors,” KWJ Engineering President Dr. Joseph Stetter told KPIX-TV about the technology.

The Bulk Currency Detection System being developed by the California-based firm uses gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to detect vapors specific to currency. The method is similar to how agents detect drugs or explosives, according to ACS.

“We have found that U.S. currency emits a wide range of volatile organic compounds that make up a possible ‘fingerprint’ that we can identify in less than a minute,” Stetter, lead author of a study about the device, said in a statement.

The detection system could be hidden and automatic at the border. Stetter told ACS the technology could be marketed to border security within two to three years.

KWJ Engineering is not the only company working on such a device. The Department of Homeland Security in 2010 awarded a nearly $1 million contract to Lattice Government Services, Inc., in Virginia to work on “gaseous chemical detection” and other technologies for currency detection with the University of Washington.

KWJ Engineering did not immediately return TheBlaze’s request for comment about its new technology.

Front page image via Shutterstock.