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  • Nerve-Gas Fingerprints Etched in Light
Nov 2003
RICHLAND, Wash., Nov. 10 -- In 1995, hundreds of Tokyo subway rescuers were exposed to the deadly nerve gas sarin hours before police confirmed its identity. Earlier this year, soldiers in Iraq worried about a similar fate. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) scientists have now come up with a way to warn commuters, emergency crews and troops about a toxic gas release.

A high-resolution infrared spectrometer can be pointed at a suspect cloud to read light emitted and absorbed. Thanks to the lab's highly precise catalog of chemical-agent spectral signatures, the instrument detects from the light the presence of sarin, soman, VX, mustard gas and other common nerve and blistering agents. National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers collaborated on recent tests of the PNNL system at Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground.

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