Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory developed a new method to detect warm chemical gasses set before a cooler background environment. The advantage of the system is that it is passive in nature, and does not send out any signals to detect environmental chemical pollution. In addition, it does not have to receive any actual samples of the chemical gas, and therefore can be located at a distance from a potentially dangerous target being tested.
The Argonne team designed PmmWS primarily to monitor chemical signatures emitted by processing facilities suspected of unauthorized nuclear activity. Certain chemical fingerprints can identify factories involved in the enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear materials and their use in weapons production.
The researchers’ ability to collect remote data passively, like using an infrared camera, as opposed to actively, like using radar, provides a significant improvement over other chemical detection equipment. “The main concern is that there should be nothing to intercept,” said Gopalsami. “If you are my adversary, you can just put up some sort of receiver and see that I’m looking at you.”
“That was the number one requirement – you do not want to be transmitting any signal,” Bakhtiari added.
This new detection technology possesses several other advantages over other forms of chemical sensing. Previous remote sensing instruments for terrestrial, as opposed to astronomical, use had lower ranges of detection (ranging from 10 m to 100 m), were susceptible to interference from clouds and other atmospheric phenomena, and cost significantly more than PmmWS. Compared to it predecessors, the Argonne system is also safer and offers better selectivity – that is, it can identify a particular molecule instead of just a molecular functional group.
ANL Press Release: New instrument covertly detects signals from illicit chemicals
Video explaining the system (Windows media format (wmv))…