Experimental laser system quickly, safely exposes bombs

DHS looking for more accurate, safe way to detect bombs

Researchers are looking to build a portable laser system that can rapidly detect and help safely identify bombs or hidden explosives. 

Scientists from the Department of Homeland Security are looking at a system known as Optimal Dynamic Detection which uses laser pulses to identify explosive types of material. 

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DHS says the laser system would be a more sensitive, safer alternative to the venerable spectrography systems used today.   

"Many threat detection methods require either the person or the detector to be physically near the bomb, making spectroscopy extremely dangerous. Second, approaches like spectroscopy, which rely on reflected light, often are not sensitive or selective enough, especially in the real world where chemical signatures may overlap or be contaminated," the DHS stated. On top of that many threat detection methods require either the person or the detector to be physically near the bomb, making spectroscopy extremely dangerous, the DHS stated. 

According to the DHS, ODD works as follows:

1.A bomb technician beams a "raw" laser pulse toward a suspicious bag, looking for a specific explosive.

2.The pulse passes through an electro-optical filter, gaining clarity as it is bent through lenses, reflected by mirrors and amplified by chips. When a technician tunes the laser to a new frequency, the filter reshapes the laser's pulse. As it is bent, reflected, and electronically processed, the pulse changes amplitude.

3.The shaped pulse hits the chemical environment around the lunchbox and excites the energy state of the material of interest, emitting an energy "signature."

4.A second laser, called an analyzing probe, is beamed through the excited molecules, measuring its spectrum. The probe beam passes into an electro-optical detector stationed on the other side of the target.

5.The pulse laser's final shape is stored and analyzed. If the signature looks like that of an explosive, it can conclusively be traced to the explosive molecules that emitted it, which may be found on the bag's fabric or zipper.

DHS ODD system

DHS said the ODD project started with research from Princeton University and Los Alamos National Laboratory DHS funded ODD research with the two schools and  now after several rounds of successful tests, researchers have successfully demonstrated the science of ODD, DHS stated.  The trick is to now get it on to a product that can be tested in the field.

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