from Michigan State University are developing a laser-based method to combat
improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by insurgents fighting in Iraq and
The laser used by MSU researchers isn't necessarily stronger or more powerful,
but is able to scan the immediate area analyzing the chemical composition of surrounding
Originally designed for microscopes, the new technology uses both ultra-short
pulses designed to disturb molecules, and the longer pulses are able to
identify different frequencies.
Accurately picking out chemical compounds used in IEDs in the field is
complicated due to the varying compounds already present. To complicate matters
further, IEDs are often placed in populated locations, so any type of IED
locator must spot an IED without destroying it.
"Having molecular structure sensitivity is critical for identifying explosives and avoiding
unnecessary evacuation of buildings and closing roads due to false
alarms," noted researcher Dr. Marcos Dantus. "The laser and the
method we've developed were originally intended for microscopes, but we were
able to adapt and broaden its use to demonstrate its effectiveness for standoff
detection of explosives."
British research teams also are developing new chemical-based IED detection
systems they hope can be field tested as soon as possible. The use of roadside
bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan still cause a high number of coalition
casualties, despite vehicles with better armor.
Trying to combat the deadly impact of IEDs has been a difficult challenge, with
a number of different options tested by the US military. Last month, a story
surfaced about US Army soldier successfully using a modified RC truck to help locate IEDs
out in the field.