Frontiers in Optics 2012: Green laser pointer detects explosives

Oct. 11, 2012
Washington, DC--FiO 2012 will include a presentation on a highly portable Raman spectrometer that detects hazardous chemicals by using a green laser pointer.

Washington, DC--In addition to presentations on contact lenses that could cure myopia and researchers that are pushing past Heisenberg's limit, the 2012 Frontiers in Optics/Laser Science XXVII (www.frontiersinoptics.com) meeting will include a presentation by an an Israeli research team on a new and highly portable Raman spectrometer that can detect extremely minute traces of hazardous chemicals in real time by using an ordinary green laser pointer. Such a compact design makes it an excellent candidate for rapid field deployment to disaster zones and areas with security concerns. The researchers will present their findings at Laser Science XXVIII--the American Physical Society Division of Laser Science's Annual Meeting--collocated with the Optical Society's (www.osa.org) Annual Meeting, Frontier in Optics (FiO), taking place in Rochester, NY from October 14-18.

Raman spectrometers rely on highly focused beams of light at precise wavelengths to illuminate small samples of materials. Very sensitive detectors then study the spectra of light that has been re-emitted, or scattered, by the sample. Most of this scattered light retains its original frequency or color, but a very small percentage of that light is shifted ever so slightly to higher or lower wavelengths, depending on the unique vibrational modes of the sample being studied. By comparing the shifted and the original wavelengths, it's possible to determine the precise chemicals present in the sample.

The researchers brought this capability down to size by constructing their Raman spectrometer using a low-power and low-cost commercial green laser pointer. The green laser's relatively short wavelength helped to improve the detection of the inherently weak Raman signal. The spectrometer also has the capability to first scan the entire sample optically, sweeping from side to side, to locate individual particles of interest--a task usually performed by large and cumbersome Raman microscopes.

"Since the overall system is modular, compact, and can be readily made portable, it can be easily applied to the detection of different compounds and for forensic examination of objects that are contaminated with drugs, explosives, and particularly explosive residues on latent fingerprints," said Ilana Bar, a researcher with the Department of Physics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. "With proper investment this system could be deployed quite quickly as a consumer product." Other members of the research team include Itamar Malka, Alona Petrushansky, and Salman Rosenwaks.

Presentation LTh3I.3, "Detection of Explosives and Latent Fingerprint Residues Utilizing Laser Pointer Based Raman Spectroscopy," takes place Thursday, October 18 at 2:30 p.m. EDT at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center in Rochester, NY.

SOURCE: The Optical Society;www.osa.org/en-us/about_osa/newsroom/newsreleases/2012/from_lectures_to_explosives_detection_green_laser/

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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