Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tiny infrared laser holds promise as weapon against terror

08.08.2005


The difficulty of detecting the presence of explosives and chemical warfare agents (CWAs) is once again all too apparent in the news about the London bombings.



In a significant breakthrough, researchers at Northwestern University’s Center for Quantum Devices have demonstrated a specialized diode laser that holds promise as a weapon of defense in both civilian and military applications. Once optimized, the tiny laser could quickly detect explosives and CWAs early and warn against possible threats.

The Northwestern team, led by center director Manijeh Razeghi, became the first to create a quantum cascade laser (QCL) that can operate continuously at high power and at room temperature with an emission wavelength of 9.5 microns and a light output of greater than 100 milliwatts.


Existing standard diode lasers, such as those used to read compact discs or barcodes, do not operate effectively in the longer wavelengths that are required to detect CWAs. The challenge for researchers around the world has been to develop a portable laser that operates in the far-infrared (wavelengths of 8 to 12 microns). Every chemical has a unique "fingerprint" because it absorbs light of a specific frequency, and most CWAs fall in the 8 to 12 micron region.

"Our achievement is critical to building an extremely sensitive chemical detection system," said Razeghi, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "One of the key elements in a successful system is the laser source. Both mid- and far-infrared diode lasers need to operate at room temperature, have high power -- greater than 100 milliwatts -- and be extremely small in order to keep the system portable. We have now demonstrated such a laser in the far-infrared wavelength range."

This research is part of a four-year program called Laser Photoacoustic Spectroscopy (LPAS) funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal of the program is to develop a man-portable system that can warn against a large number of potential threats using mid- and far-infrared diode lasers. Once optimized, such lasers would be a very reliable means of detecting explosives and chemical warfare agents while distinguishing them from benign chemicals present in the atmosphere.

During the next two years Razeghi and her team will work to put together a detection system based on the center’s far-infrared laser. The system will then be evaluated by DARPA for use by the military.

Northwestern is a world leader in high-power QCL research. The Center for Quantum Devices was the first university research lab in the world to successfully grow, fabricate and test quantum cascade lasers back in 1997. By utilizing quantum mechanical design principles and advanced crystal growth techniques, the QCL is able to demonstrate high-power and high-temperature operation.

After the initial demonstration of room-temperature pulsed lasers in 1997, the primary efforts of Razeghi and her colleagues over the past several years have been to increase the laser’s operating temperature, power output and efficiency in order to achieve the continuous operation necessary for sensitive chemical analysis.

In 2003 the center was the first to demonstrate high-power mid-wavelength infrared continuous wave QCLs operating above room temperature. (Like the far infrared, standard diode lasers cannot access this mid-infrared range.) At present, individual devices with output powers of several hundred milliwatts have been demonstrated in the 3 to 5 microns wavelength range.

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Pulses of electrons manipulate nanomagnets and store information
21.07.2017 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion
21.07.2017 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>