Navigation Links
'Air laser' may sniff bombs, pollutants from a distance

Princeton University engineers have developed a new laser sensing technology that may allow soldiers to detect hidden bombs from a distance and scientists to better measure airborne environmental pollutants and greenhouse gasses.

"We are able to send a laser pulse out and get another pulse back from the air itself," said Richard Miles, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, the research group leader and co-author on the paper. "The returning beam interacts with the molecules in the air and carries their finger prints."

The new technique differs from previous remote laser-sensing methods in that the returning beam of light is not just a reflection or scattering of the outgoing beam. It is an entirely new laser beam generated by oxygen atoms whose electrons have been "excited" to high energy levels. This "air laser" is a much more powerful tool than previously existed for remote measurements of trace amounts of chemicals in the air.

The researchers, whose work is funded by the Office of Naval Research's basic research program on Sciences Addressing Asymmetric Explosive Threats, published their new method Jan. 28 in the journal Science.

Miles collaborated with three other researchers: Arthur Dogariu, the lead author on the paper, and James Michael of Princeton, and Marlan Scully, a professor with joint appointments at Princeton and Texas A&M University.

The new laser sensing method uses an ultraviolet laser pulse that is focused on a tiny patch of air, similar to the way a magnifying glass focuses sunlight into a hot spot. Within this hot spot a cylinder-shaped region just 1 millimeter long oxygen atoms become "excited" as their electrons get pumped up to high energy levels. When the pulse ends, the electrons fall back down and emit infrared light. Some of this light travels along the length of the excited cylinder region and, as it does so, it stimulates more electrons to fall, amplifying and organizing the light into a coherent laser beam aimed right back at the original laser.

Researchers plan to use a sensor to receive the returning beam and determine what contaminants it encountered on the way back.

"In general, when you want to determine if there are contaminants in the air you need to collect a sample of that air and test it," Miles said. "But with remote sensing you don't need to do that. If there's a bomb buried on the road ahead of you, you'd like to detect it by sampling the surrounding air, much like bomb-sniffing dogs can do, except from far away. That way you're out of the blast zone if it explodes. It's the same thing with hazardous gases you don't want to be there yourself. Greenhouse gases and pollutants are up in the atmosphere, so sampling is difficult."

The most commonly used remote laser-sensing method, LIDAR -- short for light detection and ranging -- measures the scattering of a beam of light as it reflects off a distant object and returns back to a sensor. It is commonly used for measuring the density of clouds and pollution in the air, but can't determine the actual identity of the particles or gases. Variants of this approach can identify contaminants, but are not sensitive enough to detect trace amounts and cannot determine the location of the gases with much accuracy.

The returning beam is thousands of times stronger in the method developed by the Princeton researchers, which should allow them to determine not just how many contaminants are in the air but also the identity and location of those contaminants.

The stronger signal should also allow for detection of much smaller concentrations of airborne contaminants, a particular concern when trying to detect trace amounts of explosive vapors. Any chemical explosive emits various gases depending on its ingredients, but for many explosives the amount of gas is miniscule.

While the researchers are developing the underlying methods rather than deployable detectors, they envision a device that is small enough to be mounted on, for example, a tank and used to scan a roadway for bombs.

So far, the researchers have demonstrated the process in the laboratory over a distance of about a foot and a half. In the future they plan to increase the distance over which the beams travel, which they note is a straightforward matter of focusing the beam farther way. They also plan to fine-tune the sensitivity of the technique to identify small amounts of airborne contaminants.

In addition, the research group is developing other approaches to remote detection involving a combination of lasers and radar.

"We'd like to be able to detect contaminants that are below a few parts per billion of the air molecules," Miles said. "That's an incredibly small number of molecules to find among the huge number of benign air molecules."


Contact: Steven Schultz
Princeton University, Engineering School

Related biology technology :

1. Engineers grow nanolasers on silicon, pave way for on-chip photonics
2. Eindhoven University builds affordable alternative to mega-laser X-FEL
3. Capasso lab demonstrates highly unidirectional whispering gallery microlasers
4. Ben-Gurion University nano researcher to receive prestigious award for laser science and quantum physics
5. Looking to leap forward on laser and photodetector technologies
6. Laser pioneer Federico Capasso awarded Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis
7. Hamilton Thorne to launch Staccato(TM) laser at International Society of Stem Cell Research Annual Meeting
8. OnychoLase Laser Nail Centers Making a Global Impact, By Bringing Western Medicine To The East
9. Colorado State University student awarded top student prize in laser research
10. OnychoLase™ Laser Nail Center Provides New Laser Nail Therapy to Help Fight Against Fungal Nails
11. Quantum leap for phonon lasers
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
'Air laser' may sniff bombs, pollutants from a distance
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range ... place between the two entities said Poloz. Speaking ... Ottawa , he pointed to the country,s inflation ... federal government. "In ... "Both institutions have common economic goals, why not sit down ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the majority of ... the Cary 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end machines that use the ... of the spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. , ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in ... Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio ... practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...   Boston Biomedical , an industry leader ... target cancer stemness pathways, announced that its lead ... Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ... gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin is an orally ... stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, and is currently ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:6/27/2016)... June 27, 2016 Research and Markets has ... 2016-2020" report to their offering. ... America to grow at a CAGR of 12.28% during ... based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. ... the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of the ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... 22, 2016  The American College of Medical Genetics and ... Magazine as one of the fastest-growing trade shows during ... the Bellagio in Las Vegas . ... of growth in each of the following categories: net square ... number of attendees. The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting was ranked ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... 22, 2016   Acuant , the ... solutions, has partnered with RightCrowd ® ... Visitor Management, Self-Service Kiosks and Continuous Workforce ... add functional enhancements to existing physical access ... venues with an automated ID verification and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):