Deep-UV could hold key to fighting bioattacks

New deep-UV sources have been developed that can aid in the protection of human health, human life and food supplies by detecting and classifying single bacterial spores, cells and trace levels of cellular debris and dissolved chemicals.

Deep-UV sources such as UV-A and UV-B, which are compact, efficient, long lived and low power, are widely recognized as providing more sensitive and more discriminating detection than traditional violet wavelengths because of the strong fluorescence of cross sections provided from fluorescent amino acids in proteins and because they rely on intrinsic biological properties rather than growth-media residues.

Deep-UV is also less susceptible to threat-washing techniques, residual threat moisture and ambient humidity and are capable of detecting putrefied biotoxins.

Two new categories of deep-UV sources and sensors meant to combat biothreats and provide chemical attack protection utilize two miniature, narrow-linewidth gas lasers and p-n junction-free, electron-beam-pumped semiconductor sources.

Standoff sensors developed with deep-UV systems can also identify trace contamination on surfaces from biological, chemical and explosive hazards.

In demonstrated prototypes of deep-UV sensors employing intracavity detection with optical build-up of recirculating optical power, real-time, on-the-fly single-particle Raman signatures for low-volatility chemical threats was shown to be possible. A second prototype was shown to be a sensitive trigger to detect biological agents in flowing water.