Tuned optical sensors for detection and identification of airborne hostile agents

This Project proposes the development of low cost tuned optical sensors for detection and identification of chemical/biological airborne warfare agents, using high precision interference filters based on nanostructured materials. These sensors will be implemented in low-power disposable devices for area monitoring and mapping when deployed in batches, and in LiDAR systems located on vantage points or vehicles for remote detection for the protection of bases or critical facilities and infrastructures.

These sensors will also have civilian applications. Detection and identification of airborne hazardous substances will help protect population and provide key information in situations of industrial accidents, catastrophes or environmental crisis.

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Source: Nato website

Short description

The goal of this proposal is the in situ and remote detection of airborne hostile chemical and biological substances using disposable low cost devices, thus addressing NATO’s SPS Key Priorities 1-d(i) and 1-a(i) regarding detection of CBRN agents and protection of facilities, infrastructure and personnel.

The main objective is the development of low cost tuned optical sensors able to detect and identify airborne chemical and biological warfare agents. These sensors shall be implemented in small disposable connected devices for area monitoring and handheld devices, and on LiDAR platforms for remote sensing from vehicles or facilities.

For this purpose, an optical sensor technology is proposed based on the interferential properties of multilayered and rugated nanomaterial structures. These structures, acting as optical filters, shall allow to tune the response of low cost infrared (IR) detectors to specific wavelengths characteristic of certain chemical and/or biological warfare agents. In this way, using few of these filtered (tuned) detectors it will be possible to detect so-called fingerprint wavelengths of different hazardous substances, allowing their identification. This cost-effective approach shall allow the development of low power disposable connected sensors that, deployed in large number over a certain area, will provide in situ and real time monitoring of the area. Since the interference filters can be designed to tune the IR detectors to any particular wavelength band, this kind of sensor network not only has military applications in conflict areas, but is also applicable to civil scenarios. For instance, sensors can be tuned to detect and monitor hazardous substances, providing valuable information for decision makers in industrial leaks, accidents or catastrophes.

Additionally, these tuned sensors can be implemented in higher end systems like LiDAR platforms. Combining the long range of LiDAR systems and the sensitivity and selectivity of the tuned sensors, remote analysis of air and aerosol clouds can be performed from vehicles or vantage points for early detection of chemical or biological attacks on quarters or infrastructures.

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Project partners

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Source: Nato website

Tecnology impact

The development of the low cost tunable optical sensors proposed in this Project will allow the detection and identification of hazardous chemical and biological airborne substances, which will have an impact on both military and civillian environments.

Early and remote detection and identification of airborne hazardous chemical and biological substances in case of accident, catastrophe or attack is paramount for the defence of facilities, infrastructures and population in general. At the same time, the possibility of deploying a batch of autonomous disposable sensors over an operations theatre in order to monitor and map the area for the presence of hostile agents is key for the security of the Armed Forces, their operations and personnel, as well as for the proper decision taking in a military or civilian environment in which CBRN safety is compromised.