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article imageMilitary may get new eyes, laser shows what things are made of

By Enozia Vakil     Jun 27, 2013 in Science
Good news is here for the military. A newly developed laser could help detect what objects are made up of and find hidden dangers.
Developed by a team of scientists at the University of Michigan, a new laser may prove to be extremely helpful in defense and military, owing to its amazing ability to determine what objects are actually made up of.
"For the defense and intelligence communities, this could add a new set of eyes," a professor of computer science, electrical and biomedical engineering, Mohammed Islam, explained.
Developed with off-the-shelf communications technology, this new laser system emits a beam of infrared light.
As opposed to other lasers which emit light restricted to just one wavelength or color, this super-continuum laser is packed with columns of light having many different wavelengths. What's more, this laser beam is restricted to the infrared region, which renders it invisible to human eye, but may reveal deep information about the objects that come in contact with it.
This new laser contains a "spectral fingerprinting range" which are basically frequencies that detect the echoes of vibrations of the object molecules. The spectral fingerprint of that particular object then reveals exactly which wavelength of light was absorbed, and which was reflected.
Since different objects and material reflect and absorb light of different wavelength, by analyzing the reflected light, the researchers could make out the chemical composition of the targeted object.
"A grey structure looks grey in visible light, but in the infrared, you can see not only the shape, but also what's inside it," Islam added.
"Those are imaging devices looking for bumps where there shouldn't be bumps. They're looking for shapes that are odd or different. But they can't see the chemicals in the shapes. That's why you have to take your shoes off. But our laser can detect the chemical composition."
While spectral fingerprinting is currently being used by the military today, it does have a few shortcomings, including its dependency on sunlight, and its decreased efficiency of working in a cloudy day.
This new laser may prove to be a good replacement, the researchers claim.
A paper on this research is expected to be published online in Optic Letters in July.
More about Laser, Military, new laser, wavelenght, spectral fingerprinting