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Speciale ENEA News - Trace explosive detection with laser spectroscopy

Luogo: Roma
Data: 14/12/2009
Canale: English
Autori: F. L. Falconieri, R. Ciardi

The Laser Application Laboratory in the ENEA Frascati Research Centre has completed a series of tests and experimentation on laser spectroscopy technology to assess its potential for the creation of new  tools  for detecting  trace explosives in densely trafficked areas, such as airports, railway station or rallies and major entertainement events. Accurate and reliable results prove that the target is feasible and the commercialization phase ready to start.

ENEA is  the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development.   Research, advanced services and consultancy in energy and sustainable development are our main sectors of activities.

ENEA Research Centres are located throughout Italy providing a unique network of infrastructures and facilities. The Frascati Research Centre, south of Rome, is a major facility where research and development activities on nuclear fusion, particle accelerators and laser technologies is carried out.

Laser technology can answer a multitude of real-world needs, when detecting chemical substances is  essential. The Laser Application Laboratory in Frascati has completed a series of tests and experimentation on laser spectroscopy technology to assess its potential in trace detection of explosives.

Nowadays the emergence of global terrorism has created new concerns for the security of the entire world. Early detection of explosives, especially in densely trafficked airports and mass transportation venues may be crucial to save human lives.
LIBS is Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy. A pulsed laser beam is focused to produce a plasma on the target surface. No sample preparation and real time detection make it  suitable for field use. At the Laser Application lab, those characteristics have been exploited to produce a new tool to analyze either solid or liquid  substances for trace  explosive detection. The substances are classified with a specially designed software and hazardous ones immediately identified.
We also tested Laser Infrared Photoacoustic spectroscopy. It  is a technology based on the property of materials to produce sound waves when exposed to the infrared radiation of a variable frequency laser. Explosives can be detected without any interfering with the samples and we integrated the system with an exclusive software for the accurate discrimination of the substances.

Raman is a vibrational spectroscopy technique. A single-wavelength laser is directed toward a sample target. It generates or "scatters" measurable light, which is used to identify the material of the sample.  
Our Raman system is portable and accurate and gives a real time response.

All three techniques have proved to be highly discriminating even in the presence of interfering substances such as dust, fingerprints and lubricant oil. Besides, both LIBS and Raman spectroscopy proved very sensitive in detecting trace substances at sub nanogram level.

The technology was tested and implemented within ISOTREX, a  EU funded research project on the application of different laser spectroscopy techniques to the early detection of explosive substances in security risk areas. ENEA is ISOTREX coordinator and has worked together with the Italian CNR and the Italian Ris, Reparti di Investigazione Scientifica dei Carabinieri.

Our objective is to turn laboratory devices into handy instruments for the personnel who works in crowded and trafficked venues to prevent terrorist attacks and grant security. Test results prove that it is a feasible one, which could be achieved working in partnership with industry and security professionals.

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