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Lasers could be used to detect roadside bombs

Date:
September 18, 2011
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Scientists have just developed a laser that could detect roadside bombs. The laser potentially has the sensitivity and selectivity to canvas large areas and detect improvised explosive devices -- weapons that account for around 60 percent of coalition soldiers' deaths.

Marcos Dantus, chemistry department, Michigan State University.
Credit: Image courtesy of Michigan State University

A research team at Michigan State University has developed a laser that could detect roadside bombs -- the deadliest enemy weapon encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The laser, which has comparable output to a simple presentation pointer, potentially has the sensitivity and selectivity to canvas large areas and detect improvised explosive devices -- weapons that account for around 60 percent of coalition soldiers' deaths. Marcos Dantus, chemistry professor and founder of BioPhotonic Solutions, led the team and has published the results in the current issue of Applied Physics Letters.

The detection of IEDs in the field is extremely important and challenging because the environment introduces a large number of chemical compounds that mask the select few molecules that one is trying to detect, Dantus said.

"Having molecular structure sensitivity is critical for identifying explosives and avoiding unnecessary evacuation of buildings and closing roads due to false alarms," he said.

Since IEDs can be found in populated areas, the methods to detect these weapons must be nondestructive. They also must be able to distinguish explosives from vast arrays of similar compounds that can be found in urban environments. Dantus' latest laser can make these distinctions even for quantities as small as a fraction of a billionth of a gram.

The laser beam combines short pulses that kick the molecules and make them vibrate, as well as long pulses that are used to "listen" and identify the different "chords." The chords include different vibrational frequencies that uniquely identify every molecule, much like a fingerprint. The high-sensitivity laser can work in tandem with cameras and allows users to scan questionable areas from a safe distance.

"The laser and the method we've developed were originally intended for microscopes, but we were able to adapt and broaden its use to demonstrate its effectiveness for standoff detection of explosives," said Dantus, who hopes to net additional funding to take this laser from the lab and into the field.

This research is funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security. BioPhotonic Solutions is a high-tech company Dantus launched in 2003 to commercialize technology invented in a spinoff from his research group at MSU.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marshall T. Bremer, Paul J. Wrzesinski, Nathan Butcher, Vadim V. Lozovoy, Marcos Dantus. Highly selective standoff detection and imaging of trace chemicals in a complex background using single-beam coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering. Applied Physics Letters, 2011; 99 (10): 101109 DOI: 10.1063/1.3636436

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Lasers could be used to detect roadside bombs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110917082729.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2011, September 18). Lasers could be used to detect roadside bombs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110917082729.htm
Michigan State University. "Lasers could be used to detect roadside bombs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110917082729.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

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