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CARISS Technology and Super-thermite Technology Win R&D 100 Awards

Dave Cremers (right) for CARISS at the June 11th R&D 100 entry ceremony at the Bradbury Science Museum. Left, Roger Wiens (NIS), center, Lab Director Pete Nanos.


LIBS CARISS team: David Cremers, Monty Ferris, Roger Wiens (Los Alamos), Paul Lucey, Shiv Sharma (University of Hawaii)

Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is one of the longer-running success stories to come out of Chemistry Division. The technology has seen a wide variety of applications and has generated numerous awards, and the LIBS program has been a model of organizational cooperation as well as a scientific accomplishment. On July 1st, the LIBS team was notified that they had won a prestigious R&D 100 Award for a novel LIBS application called CARISS (Compositional Analysis by Raman-Integrated Spark Spectroscopy). This is the 4th R&D 100 Award for LIBS.

The LIBS team has filed for intellectual property protection and is now proceeding toward the commercialization of a low-cost, person portable instrument accompanied by a set of instructions on how and where to use the instrument for verifiable measurement techniques.

CARISS is the only field-deployable instrument that provides a complete chemical analysis (elemental and compositional) of a material at close, stand-off, and remote distances. CARISS uses two laser beams to conduct such analyses. The rugged instrumentation, highly adaptable to real-world analysis situations, provides rapid-less than two minutes per sample-"hands-off," measurement, reducing analysis time and cost by at least a factor of 100. Designed for analysis in the field, CARISS can fit into a briefcase or a lunchbox, depending on the application. The versatility and portability of the instrument will allow it to sample Martian surface materials from a Mars Rover; verify the composition of bobsled runners at the Olympic Games to enforce international rules and regulations; and detect carbon in soil for use in terrestrial carbon sequestration programs aimed at reducing global warming.


  • Chemical agent detection for homeland defense and customs surveillance efforts
  • Identification of materials used in weapons of mass destruction
  • Industrial process control and mining operations
  • Carbon detection (organic and inorganic) in soil
  • Soil monitoring for the presence of toxic metals and harmful organic compounds


The technology was originally developed for the Martian Rover application, then adapted for carbon detection as a new monitoring, measurement, and verification (MMV) system to rapidly and economically verify carbon sequestration levels in soil systems. Many believe that this LIBS application can make a significant contribution to the economic viability of the terrestrial sequestration option.

LIBS development has been directly supported by FE/NETL, USDA/NRCS and the Office of Science in DOE and is a terrific example of different federal organizations working together as a team to resolve a critical issue.

Initial research using CARISS for terrestrial carbon sequestration was sponsored by the USDA, and Kansas State University will soon be leading the testing protocol validation of the instrument, which has been designed by top experts in the USDA along with LANL support. This testing program will start in California at UC Davis, go across the nation, and finally conclude at an Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md. Test results will be shared with US research organizations and US industry in order to facilitate the rapid commercialization of this technology and the international trading of carbon credits.

Super-Thermite Electric Matches

(reprinted from the Los Alamos Newsletter)

Team members: Michael Hiskey, Darren Naud and Steven Son of Materials
Dynamics (DX-2); James Busse of Advanced Chemical Diagnostics and
Instrumentation (C-ADI); and Kenneth Kosanke of PyroLabs Inc.

C-ADI's Jim Busse (right) with Los Alamos Director "Pete" Nanos (in blue) and the rest of the Super-thermite team.

Have you ever attended an elaborate fireworks display choreographed to music and other special effects? To achieve such awe-inspiring shows, experts in pyrotechnics use electric matches, which consist of small ignition elements specifically designed to ignite fireworks remotely and with precise timing. Unfortunately, conventional electric matches use lead-containing compounds that are extremely sensitive to impact, friction, static and heat stimuli, making them dangerous to handle. In addition, these compounds produce toxic smoke. The Super-Thermite electric matches produce no toxic lead smoke and are safer to use because they resist friction, impact, heat and static

discharge through the composition, thereby minimizing accidental ignition. They can be designed to create various thermalinitiating outputs — simple sparks, hot slag, droplets or flames — depending on the needs of different applications. Applications The principal application is in the entertainment industry, which uses fireworks displays for a variety of venues, such as sporting events, holiday celebrations and musical and theatrical gatherings.

Secondary applications include
• triggering explosives for the mining, demolition and defense industries,
• setting off vehicle air bags and
• igniting rocket motors.

Posted 7/03, js

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More highlights from Chemistry

Posted 7/03



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