Texas A&M researchers develop laser for explosives, drug detection

Technology can identify dangerous materials within powders from at least half a mile away

Aug. 17--Technology developed by Texas A&M University researchers to detect explosives and hazardous materials could be used in fighting terrorism, for drug enforcement and for agricultural purposes.

Using lasers, Vladislav Yakovlev, a professor in the department of biomedical engineering and the department of physics and astronomy, and a team of researchers have found a way to identify dangerous materials within powders that often act as carriers for explosives and biological agents from at least half a mile away.

To identify those materials, researchers beamed a high-powered laser onto the powder, which caused the molecules within the powder to scatter, giving researchers a molecular "fingerprint" that they could analyze to determine the makeup of the powder.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Yakovlev said research began three years ago but was originally intended as medical or biological research.

What they found was that the technology could actually be useful for the U.S. Department of Defense and Homeland Security, but also drug enforcement agencies looking for narcotics from afar or in agriculture to see how fertilizer is being distributed, he said.

Up next, Yakovlev said researchers could take the technology and apply it to the body, finding ways to look through skin and into the brain and replacing X-rays with safer radiation.

Other Aggie researchers involved in the project were graduate students Brett Hokr, Joel Bixler and John Mason.

Copyright 2014 - The Eagle, Bryan, Texas