Science and Technology News

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tactical-Biological Detector

Bad things can come in tiny packages.

The post- 9/11 anthrax mailings drove that point home in  a dramatic manner.  Fortunately, America has  a new sentinel on duty – the Tactical Biological Detector (TAC-BIO), an aerosol biological  detector that has redefined the state-of-the-art  with its small, low-cost, low-power design.

The  TAC-BIO team started with a well-known  detection principle – namely, that airborne biological agents excited by certain ultraviolet light will fluoresce and scatter light in a specific and  identifiable manner – and then improved nearly every element of the long-standing detection  technique.

TAC-BIO is a truly man-portable unit.

Compared to competing technologies, TAC-BIO  has a 50% smaller footprint, weighs 80% less,  consumes only 4% as much power, and manages  all of this in a cost-effective platform.  Previous  fluorescent detection systems required expensive, high-powered ultraviolet lasers.

The TAC-BIO  team eschewed the tried-and-true laser sources  and instead built their device on semiconductor ultraviolet optical sources (SUVOS).  They developed an entirely new front-end assembly  with a novel airflow system to pull air into the  detector unit where the SUVOS laser device  illuminates the sample.

Any biological particle  present will fluoresce and scatter a portion of the  light.  Novel mirrors and other optics focus the resulting fluorescence and scatter onto a detector, where a unique photon-counting technique  is used to quantify the results for analysis by an onboard microprocessor.

Audible and visible  alarms are sounded if the unit reaches threshold levels of detection.

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center  licensed TAC-BIO to General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products and to Research  International, Inc.  One technology transfer  recipient has already completed a substantial  commercial sale and is poised for a follow-on deal.  Both recipients are on or ahead of their development and sales schedules.  Of critical  importance to the Department of Defense is that one licensee is a candidate for a $117 million U.S. military acquisition.

The technology emerged from the creative and  unique collaboration of nine researchers from a  large federal lab, industry, and academia working  to build a new sensor from the ground up around  a novel laser light source.  The effort yielded five patents, novel optics, a unique air intake system, and a new optical interrogation technique.   TAC-BIO is designed to detect airborne biomaterials, with an emphasis on bio-threat agents such as anthrax.

From U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center 

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