Optics & Infrared Sensing
The ability to detect minute concentrations of certain chemicals and biological materials in environmental samples is critical to our nation's ability to identify potential threats to our national security. The Optics and Infrared Sensing team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory offers a wide range of capabilities to help government clients develop sensor systems for detecting chemical and biological compounds used to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The same capabilities can be applied to industry for monitoring environmental pollution or for monitoring food and water supplies
The chemical emissions from materials involved in chemical and nuclear weapons production are often difficult to identify because they are low in concentration and similar to pollutants and chemicals in the air, water and soil. However, many of these chemicals have an infrared spectrum that is easily identifiable. Our Optics and Infrared Sensing Program is developing point- and remote-sensing instruments to positively identify these emissions for a broad range of homeland security and civilian applications. In support of our point- and remote-sensing work, we are developing mid- and long-wave infrared lasers. Additionally, our team of scientists is miniaturizing the optics to provide solutions for lightweight airborne and space missions. From fundamental research to field deployable systems, the Optics and Infrared Sensing Groups core capabilities are summarized in the above image.
PNNL continues to develop the Northwest Infrared (NWIR) spectral library of quantitative infrared absorption spectra. This unique library is the "gold standard" of vapor phase infrared reference spectra and is uniquely adapted to both remote and point sensing. The library is a unique asset to PNNL's development of infrared sensors and methods, including sensors for detecting weapons of mass destruction. In addition, we are using our established expertise in optics to develop biodetection systems for the rapid detection of biothreats in complex samples. Our work ranges from fluorescence analysis for bio-aerosol warning systems to benchtop and handheld detection systems using fluorescent nanoparticles to enable selective and sensitive detection in liquid samples. Our detection methods employ ultraviolet and visible light sources to identify specific fluorescent detection tags or biological compounds based on their unique fluorescent emission signatures.