We report detection and identification of trace quantities of explosives at standoff distances up to with high sensitivity (signal-to-noise ratio of ) and high selectivity. The technique involves illuminating the target object with laser radiation at a wavelength that is strongly absorbed by the target. The resulting temperature rise is observed by remotely monitoring the increased blackbody radiation from the sample. An unambiguous determination of the target, TNT, in soil samples collected from an explosives test site in China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station is achieved through the use of a tunable laser that scans over the absorption fingerprint of the target explosives. The theoretical analysis supports the observation and indicates that, with optimized detectors and data processing algorithms, the measurement capability can be improved significantly, permitting rapid standoff detection of explosives at distances approaching . The detection sensitivity varies as and, thus, with the availability of high power, room-temperature, tunable mid-wave infrared and long-wave infrared quantum cascade lasers, this technology may play an important role in screening personnel and their belongings at short distances, such as in airports, for detecting and identifying explosives material residue on persons.
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