Research news

New portable Finnish technology detects chemical warfare agents safely

Pioneering miniaturized hyperspectral technology piloted in a CBRNE hot zone

The University of Jyväskylä in Finland has piloted the use of miniaturized hyperspectral technology in a CBRNE hot zone. This was the first time this technology was tested in an operational exercise. The exercise was organized in collaboration with the Hellenic Armed Forces in Greece.

In the exercise, a new safe and fast wireless hyperspectral system for CBRNE reconnaissance, which detects and identifies chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, was tested within adapted NATO standards with the CBRNE specialists of the Hellenic Armed Forces.

The ten-day exercise was organized as a part of the European multi-technology TOXI-triage project, and in total more than one hundred people participated in the rehearsal. The project is coordinated by the Loughborough University in UK and funded by the European Commission in 2015–2019.

CBRNE is an acronym for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives. CBRNE weapons have the ability to cause mass casualties and a serious disruption of society. They can be used on purpose or CBRNE events can also happen accidentally.

New technology is safe, portable, efficient and versatile

The University of Jyväskylä’s new CBRNE detection system is based on small optical sensors and a fast real-time wireless analyzing system, which enable flexible and efficient precision investigation of chemical agents in a hot zone. In the exercise in Greece, the system was also used in the decontamination line to verify the cleaning result and for screening forensic evidence.

As an improvement to current technologies, the new prototype system finds and identifies chemical agents safely without taking physical samples of the hazardous materials. The system also makes invisible contamination visible for the human eye and produces digital images of poisonous spots for further use.

In order to make the detection technology suitable for field use, the weight of the device was reduced 90% from earlier versions. In addition to portability, another key advantage is the capability to find absorbed and evaporated agents in built environments. Primary users of the system are the military and rescue forces, the police, customs and border guard.

“The operative exercise with the CBRNE specialists of the Hellenic Armed Forces was very useful. In addition, the outdoor environment in the Mediterranean climate produced valuable information about optical chemical detection in contrast to outdoor use in the Nordic conditions of Finland. For example, due to different daylight, it was possible to decrease the weight of the device by additional 40%, and also the detection time improved noticeably,” says project manager Dr. Jaana Kuula from the Faculty of Information Technology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Dr Kuula in CBRNE excercise in Greece 17-10-2018.jpg

Contact information

Dr. Jaana Kuula, University of Jyväskylä, Faculty of Information Technology, Finland, jaana.kuula@jyu.fi, tel. +358 40 805 3272