Available Technology

Approaching Suspicious Substances Safely

A mineral identification tool developed for NASA's Mars Rover Technology Development Program is now serving as a powerful tool for U.S. law enforcement agencies and military personnel to identify suspicious liquid and solid substances. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to EIC Laboratories, Inc., to develop a portable Raman spectrometer and fiber-optic probe for a Mars exploration rover. The company produced a portable Raman spectrometer that could obtain full-range spectra of mineral samples. The spectrometer was then repackaged for forensic and military applications. InPhotonics, Inc., a spinoff company of EIC, commercialized the technology as the InPhotote.T It measures unknown substances through glass and plastic packaging materials with the RamanProbeT focused fiber-optic probe. The probe length can be extended up to 200 meters to enable users to analyze potentially dangerous substances at a safe distance. In many cases, the spectrometer and personnel are kept in a safe zone while the probe is positioned next to the sample being analyzed. Being able to identify chemicals in remote locations saves users time and labor. Since the InPhotote can rapidly identify a wide range of potentially hazardous materials, it is of interest to law enforcement and security agencies.
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