LIBS sniffs out explosives

Inexpensive laser technique detects explosives from up to 60 feet away.

U.S. Army Research Laboratory

A simple and inexpensive analytical technique has made it possible to detect explosives from up to 60 feet away, a desirable commodity in an age of IEDs and suicide bombers and one that may become commercially available in the near future.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Maryland has developed a system that detects explosive residues, using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) to identify the elemental composition of molecules. Refinement and standardization of this technique would fill a growing security and military need, researchers say.

"Currently there are no proven technologies that can accomplish residue explosives detection at a distance in a real-world scenario," said Jennifer Gottfried, who led the Army research team. And though the technology still needs to be "verified and validated in real-world applications," she is optimistic they will come up with a usable device. "We expect that this technology will be available commercially very soon."

Maybe sooner than expected. There's a race on from other labs to perfect the process.

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    The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at markr@milapp.com. Disclosure.

     

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