DARPA to Develop Tiny Lasers for Bio-Weapon Detection

DARPA to Develop Tiny Lasers for Bio-Weapon Detection

11 March 2014

Biochemical weapons are known to be the deadliest weapons ever produced, but lasers might hold the key to their detection. This is what researchers at the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) aim to achieve with their latest program, which puts laser technology at the core of bio-weapon identification.

The program, called Laser UV Sources for Tactical Efficient Raman (LUSTER), will involve the development of a small-scale, low-cost portable Raman spectroscopy system that uses efficient, high-power UV lasers. UV lasers are thought to be the optimal wavelength for Raman-based stand-off spectroscopy and the aim of the team will be to create ones that are 300 times smaller and ten times more efficient than those currently deployed for UV-based tactical detection systems, which are too large and costly and their functionality is limited.

DARPA program manager Dan Green commented that the project will seek to overcome limitations posed by today's stand-off detection systems, which are so large and heavy that they can be moved only with the help of trucks. With LUSTER, the goal is to create new laser sources for novel chemical and biochemical agent detection devices that are compact and light enough to be carried by an individual, and more efficient at the same time, he said.

The program is expected to add to the accomplishments of the Compact Mid-Ultraviolet Technology project recently completed at DARPA, which saw the development of UV LEDs with high efficiencies and wavelengths approaching those targeted under LUSTER.