Simple compact laser system could detect presence of explosives

Sept. 9, 2013 at 5:54 PM
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EAST LANSING, Mich., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A simple, compact system could bring laser technology to the task of bomb detection at security checkpoints, researchers at Michigan State University say.

University scientists report they've developed a laser that can detect micro traces of explosive chemicals on clothing and luggage.

"Since this method uses a single beam and requires no bulky spectrometers, it is quite practical and could scan many people and their belongings quickly," MSU chemistry Professor Marcos Dantus said. "Not only does it detect the explosive material, but it also provides an image of the chemical's exact location, even if it's merely a minute trace on a zipper."

The low-energy laser is safe to use on luggage as well as passengers, he said, and is not affected by the color or surface of clothes or luggage.

Scientists have been sought to develop lasers powerful enough for detection but safe enough to use on people, and Dantus said he was inspired by a medical laser developed to detect cancer.

"While working on biomedical imaging, I began exploring additional applications," he said. "We soon learned how effective it was for detecting traces of hazardous substances from distances up to 10 meters [30 feet] away."

Funding for Dantus' research was provided by the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate, an MSU release said.

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