The threat of biological attack from rogue extremists or coordinated attacks from sophisticated terrorist cells remains on the
political radar. Counteracting these threats with intelligence procedures and protocols may not always be sufficient because
of the sheer volume of data requiring analysis and difficulty of group infiltration. This places extreme demands on policing
authorities, whereas the attacker has only to escape detection once to become a viable, unknown threat with a greater chance
of success. Reliable systems to eliminate any danger if biological attack were to happen may be sufficient to deter such attacker?s
actions in the first place. Leading to significant importance on developing technology to counteract such threats and subsequently
allowing resources to be focused on combating more conventional attacks.
Lasers have been used to inactivate various microorganisms. A review will be given of the work of the author and his team of
how different lasers can be used to decontaminate or maintain sterility of different substrates including metals, plastics and food,
with an assessment of the method of delivery. Recent work has investigated laser and plasma based air decontamination systems.
Results from this work for inactivating
spores, an anthrax stimulant, will be presented. Methods of scaling
these systems for treating larger volumes of air will be introduced.
Ian A Watson completed his Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow in 1993, studying the optimization of the gaseous discharge and optical coupling of
a high power, pulsed CO
laser. He began lecturing in 1990 and became senior lecturer in Laser Systems Engineering in 1998. He has investigated
the effect of laser and combined systems, including flashlamp, UV, microwave, ultrasonic and chemicals such as ozone, on decontamination of
microorganisms and extending the shelf-life of food. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Food Processing and Technology.
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