DARPA seeks high-power UV laser for detecting chemical and biological threats


detection system

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting proposals for compact, efficient and low-cost deep-UV lasers for detecting highly deployable biological and chemical agents as part of its Laser UV Sources for Tactical Efficient Raman (LUSTER) programme.

The programme seeks the creation of a new class of UV lasers that are 300 times smaller and ten times more efficient than existing lasers, and can either be used in current detection systems to save size, weight and power, or in new, smaller and more sensitive systems.

DARPA programme manager Dan Green said that the existing standoff detection systems are large and heavy, and require trucks for movement.

"LUSTER seeks to develop new laser sources for breakthrough chemical and biological agent detection systems that are compact and light enough to be carried by an individual, while being more efficient than today's systems," Green added.

"The new class of UV lasers envisioned from the LUSTER program is expected to impact a broad range of applications such as point-of-need medical diagnostics, advanced manufacturing and compact atomic clocks."

The programme aims to consider a multitude of technical approaches, as long as they operate within a 220NM to 240NM wavelength (deep UV), and have greater than 1W power production, wall-plug efficiencies greater than 10% and line widths less than 0.01NM.

LUSTER seeks the development of a new laser technology with the accuracy of existing expensive lasers but with the low cost and high reliability of LEDs. A proposers' day workshop in support of the programme is scheduled to be held by DARPA on 18 March.


Image: The US military's joint biological stand-off detection system. Photo: DARPA.

Defence Technology