Experimental demonstration of remote optical detection of trace explosives.
March 18, 2008
MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed a concept that could enable remote (10s of meters) detection of trace explosives' residues via a field-portable laser system. The technique relies upon laser-induced photodissociation of nitro-bearing explosives into vibrationally excited nitric oxide (NO) fragments. Subsequent optical probing of the first vibrationally excited state at 236 nm yields narrowband fluorescence at the shorter wavelength of 226 nm. With proper optical filtering, these photons provide a highly sensitive explosives signature that is not susceptible to interference from traditional optical clutter sources (e.g., red-shifted fluorescence). Quantitative measurements of trace residues of TNT have been performed demonstrating this technique using a breadboard system, which relies upon a pulsed optical parametric oscillator (OPO) based laser. Based on these results, performance projections for a fieldable system are made.