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  • Changing the Face of Warfare:

Photonics Spectra
Apr 1999
Countering a Terrorist Threat

Michael D. Wheeler, News Editor

With incidents such as the Oklahoma City bombing and nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway still fresh in the world's collective consciousness, the US and other nations have stepped up efforts to address the heightened prospect of terrorist attacks. This comes in response to the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the umbrella term that encompasses chemical, biological and nuclear armaments.
Countering a nuclear attack is a global-scale effort, with officials sizing up potential threats by analyzing intelligence data and satellite photos. On the domestic front, the twin threats of chemical and biological weapons pose a more immediate danger. Early detection of these weapons remains one of the best defenses. Conventional methods include surface acoustic wave devices, gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy, ion mobility spectroscopy and an array of paper ticket sensors.
These methods all have their merits, but scientists have increasingly promoted photonics technology as a more mobile and often more sensitive solution. From lidar used in remote detection to fiber optic probes and spectroscopy, photonics is becoming an increasingly integral part of the current generation of detection technology.

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