DRDO develops hand-held laser-based explosive detector

DRDO develops  hand-held laser-based explosive detector

A handheld explosive detector developed by a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) could make airports in the country safer for travellers.

The laser science and technology centre (LASTEC) of DRDO, based in New Delhi, has developed the portable device which uses a laser beam to detect explosives in a matter of seconds. A scientist from LASTEC, who was at the centre’s stall in Aero India, explained that metal detectors and x-ray scanners were not effective enough to detect explosives which a person could carry in gel, liquid or powder forms, among others.

“In civilian airports, people carry all kinds of things like shampoo, medicines, talcum powder and so on. It is difficult to judge whether they are disguised explosives without testing in a forensic lab,” the scientist said. The handheld detector can solve this problem because, within 12 seconds, it can tell whether the talcum powder a passenger is carrying is an explosive substance or not. A green laser light is used to ‘fingerprint’ the explosive based on Raman scattering spectroscopy.

“Depending on the kind of particles in the explosive, the wavelength of the laser beam will shift. The device already has an in-built library of 40 kinds of explosive substances. It will match the result with entries in the library, identify the substance and display the name,” he explained.

Trinitrotoluene (TNT), nitro glucose and nitrocellulose are some of the explosive substances in the library. Substances which may be harmless by themselves, but can be explosive when mixed with other materials are also included in the database. This laser detection method does not damage the material it inspects and can detect through glass and translucent containers as well. The device is portable, weighing 8 kg, and is powered by rechargeable batteries.

The detector will be supplied to major international airports in the country and to other sensitive areas such as industrial establishments of national interest. “We have demonstrated the device to several organisations such as the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and National Security Guard (NSG). They have approved it and the detectors are now in production,” the scientist said. The technology of the detector has been transferred to four Indian companies for production and in four to six months, the detectors will be supplied wherever required, he said.

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