ECBC scientists make advances in chemical detection methods

Researchers with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Laser Spectroscopy Branch are using a scattering-based laser phenomenon to create highly effective chemical detectors, the ECBC said on Wednesday.

Scientists with the branch are using Raman spectroscopy, a scattering-based phenomenon that uses a single laser source to generate a spectral signature for different chemical and biological agents. Since each chemical agent is different, the scientists can identify different agents based on this unique spectral signature.

The branch determined that the angle of smaller, portable instruments using Raman spectroscopy could affect the ability to yield accurate results. The ECBC teamed with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Advanced Technology Demonstration Branch to develop a model to test the device's angle dependence. The researchers found that chemical identification was not significantly affected between zero to 60 degrees in relation to normal.

The advanced testing would not have been possible if not for the partnership between EDBC, DTRA, joint project managers and members of the detection industry.

"Companies know that we will put their systems through the most rigorous testing and help them develop the most effective, accurate technologies," Jason Guicheteau, an ECBC scientist, said. "It is a great give and take between the Army and the company. The company can ensure that they have a really good system before taking it to the next level to try to get it fielded. Most of the companies that come to us want detailed, constructive criticism and really want to improve their product. Plus, this shows that they are already partnering with the Army."

The Laser Spectroscopy Branch's primary goal is conducting spectroscopic research and testing and evaluating systems that specialize in chemical and biological detection. Detecting dangerous agents early can warn a soldier to put on hazardous material clothing and protecting equipment before he or she is exposed to the chemical threat.