Laser identifies explosive powders 400 meters away

green laser light flash

GREEN LIGHT An intense flash from random Raman lasing contains clues useful for distinguishing between similar-looking powders from far away.

Courtesy of Brett Hokr

Guest post by Thomas Sumner

A lightning-fast laser lightshow could help detect explosive powders from a distance, a study in the August 11 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests.

The researchers took advantage of a physical phenomenon known as Raman scattering, in which some of the light shining on a surface interacts with the material’s vibrating molecules before scattering away. The frequency of this scattered light serves as a fingerprint of the material. The researchers found they could use short pulses of green light to distinguish between explosive and inert powders from 400 meters away.

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