VIASPACE Press Release
VIASPACE Subsidiary's $750,000 Army Contract for Robotic Detection of Chemical Warfare Agents and Explosives Featured in Defense News
PASADENA, CA, USA.- August 20, 2008-VIASPACE Inc. (OTCBB: VSPC) subsidiary Ionfinity has been awarded a $750,000 Phase II contract for its proposal entitled "Advanced Robotic Detection of Chemical Agents, Toxic Industrial Gases, and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED)s for Force Health Protection" submitted to the Army Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. The contract was recently featured in Defense News:
Sniffing Out Bombs From a Distance
Sensor Will Sample Air, Measure Molecules
By william matthews
Published: 18 August 2008
The U.S. Army hopes a relatively new technology called differential mobility spectrometry can be built into small, rugged sensors and used to detect the nefarious roadside bombs that cause so many casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The technology, which is capable of "sniffing" biological agents as well as chemical vapors, could also serve as an all-purpose battlefield chemical and biological weapon sensor.
The Army has hired several companies to build fast, super-sensitive detectors to protect soldiers.
One of them, Ionfinity, says it plans to build a sensor capable of detecting roadside bombs from a distance of about 100 feet. The device works by detecting miniscule amounts of explosives that seep out of the bombs, said James Weiss, chief executive of the Pasadena, Calif., firm.
Many types of explosives, including those commonly used in roadside bombs, suicide vests and land mines, emit vapors that contain molecules of the explosives. That's how dogs are able to sniff out explosives hidden in luggage or shipping containers.
Airport bomb detectors called puffers work on the same principle. Jets of air are "puffed" at passengers and then sampled for traces of explosives.
But detecting explosive vapors at a distance has been an elusive capability.
Weiss said the detector Ionfinity is building should be able to detect vapors from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as far as 30 meters away, "assuming the wind is not at your back."
It works by taking in air samples or gas samples created by heating a liquid or solid, ionizing molecules from the sample, then measuring their mass. Since each molecule has a molecular mass, it is possible to identify what's in the air by determining each molecule's weight.
The molecules are ionized by removing an electron, a process called soft ionization. (Another process, hard ionization, breaks the molecule into fragments and is not used in this sensor.)
Since electrons have negligible mass, removing an electron does not change the molecular weight. But ionization gives the molecule an electrical charge, and that charge causes the molecule to oscillate when exposed to an electrical field. By measuring the molecule's movement, the sensor identifies the molecule, Weiss said.
All of this - sampling, ionizing, analyzing - takes about six seconds, Ionfinity says.
A micro-gas chromatograph may be incorporated in the sensor to double check and confirm the detection results, Weiss said.
The sensor will be able to detect traces of explosives in concentrations as scant as "parts per trillion," Weiss said. "That's the level dogs can smell. It's very rare. I don't think there is another instrument that can detect at that level. If there is, it's only looking at one molecule - we're looking at everything."
A less advanced version of the sensor is already undergoing evaluation. It's called Juno and was produced by General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products for detecting chemical warfare agents. It is sensitive to chemical concentrations of parts per million, Weiss said. "We're enhancing that capability."
One part per million is roughly equivalent to one drop in a tank containing about 13 gallons. One part per trillion is one drop in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Ionfinity expects to have completed field demonstrations and be ready to begin production in about two years, Weiss said.
The company said it has received a $750,000 contract from the Army's Small Business Technology Transfer program.
Army program manager Gary Gilbert said developing a sensor that can detect IEDs at a distance of 100 feet would be "really something." The challenge is complicated because IEDs can be buried in the ground or encased in metal or plastic containers that prevent vapors from escaping.
Several other companies are also working to develop new chemical and biological sensors using various types of spectrometry, he said.
One of the Army's requirements is for a chemical and biological agent detector that can be attached to a robot and driven to an IED, a weapons cache or a suspicious package for close inspection.
Weiss said the Ionfinity sensor will be able to transmit its findings wirelessly to troops waiting at a safe distance.
Potential uses range far beyond the military. The sensors could be used for environmental monitoring, in agriculture and in medicine, Ionfinity says.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is among several organizations collaborating with Ionfinity.
"Once this sensor has been perfected, it will be ideal for looking for life forms on other planets," Weiss said. ■
Weiss continued, "This new sensor will change the paradigm used for future chemical detection and analysis, making it much more convenient, sensitive, selective and timely."
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About VIASPACE: Founded in 1998 with the objective of transforming proven space and defense technologies from NASA and the Department of Defense into hardware and software solutions that solve today's complex problems, VIASPACE benefits from important patent and software licenses from Caltech, which manages NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. VIASPACE is located in Pasadena California. For more information, please see www.VIASPACE.com, or contact Dr. Jan Vandersande, Director of Communications at 800-517-8050, or IR@VIASPACE.com.
Press contact: Carl Kukkonen 626-768-3360
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