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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Explosives going dark

An enhanced biomarker developed at Los Alamos can be used in the field to detect explosives and other hazardous materials.
November 25, 2013
Explosives going dark

This fluorescent protein, developed at Los Alamos, is unusually stable even when briefly boiled, making it useful for unconventional applications, such as sniffing out explosives and toxins.

An enhanced green fluorescent protein stops glowing when explosives are present.

Nitroorganic high explosives, including TNT and RDX, as well as certain other toxins,  poisons, and nerve agents, have been shown to suppress an ultraviolet excitation mechanism that causes a fluorescent biomarker to glow. A team of researchers from the U.S. Air Force Academy, using a green fluorescent protein enhanced by Los Alamos scientists for improved thermal and chemical stability, showed that this suppressed excitation can be used to identify hazardous materials by shutting off the fluorescence normally brought about with ultraviolet light.

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