Tactical-biological detector

Award Year 

Bad things can come in tiny packages. Th e 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 redefi ned 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 fl uoresce and scatter (more) light in a specific and identifi able 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-eff ective platform. Previous fl uorescent detection systems required expensive, high-powered ultraviolet lasers. Th e 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 airfl ow system to pull air into the detector unit where the SUVOS laser device illuminates the sample. Any biological particle present will fl uoresce and scatter a portion of the light. Novel mirrors and other optics focus the resulting fl uorescence and scatter onto a detector, where a unique photon-counting technique is used to quantify the results for analysis by an onboard icroprocessor. Audible and visible alarms are sounded if the unit reaches threshold levels of detection.Th e 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. Th e eff ort 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. (less)