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A series of laboratory experiments have been performed highlighting the potential of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) as a versatile sensor for the detection of terrorist threats. LIBS has multiple attributes that provide the promise of unprecedented performance for hazardous material detection and identification. These include: 1) real-time analysis, 2) high sensitivity, 3) no sample preparation, and 4) the ability to detect all elements and virtually all hazards, both molecular and biological. We have used LIBS to interrogate a variety of different target samples, including explosives, chemical warfare simulants, biological agent simulants, and landmine casings. We have used the acquired spectra to demonstrate discrimination between different chemical warfare simulants, including those on soil backgrounds. A linear correlation technique permits discrimination between an anthrax surrogate and several other biomaterials such as molds and pollens. We also use broadband LIBS to identify landmine casings versus other plastics and environmental clutter materials. A new man-portable LIBS system developed as a collaborative effort between the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Ocean Optics, Inc., is described and several other schemes for implementing LIBS sensors for homeland security and force protection are discussed.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2005