qutbluebox and crime scene investigation isn’t a link that most people would normally make. We’re hoping that will change thanks to QUT’s Dr Emad Kiriakous.
Dr Kiriakous is an analytical chemist and a lecturer in forensic science. Before his career at QUT he spent 10 years in forensics and homeland security. Knowing first-hand the dangers that confront forensic scientists in the field, Dr Kiriakous decided to develop a device that allowed unknown, and potentially hazardous substances to be analysed from a distance. He wanted something that was simple fast, easy to deploy outside the lab and cost-effective (that’s code for ‘cheap as possible’).
Working with two physicists, Dr Kiriakous developed a new laser device that can analyse concealed substances in normal light and from a distance. He’s optimistic the device will even work from 20 metres away.
Dr Kiriakous is using a proven technology known as Raman spectroscopy.
“Raman has unique features suitable to forensics,” says Dr Kiriakous.
“Working in forensics, you need to identify hazardous substances but you really want to be as far away as possible. “I realised I could work with Raman spectroscopy to develop a device that was very accurate and allowed you to analyse unknown substances remotely.
“What’s really great about Raman is that it can analyse substances dissolved or covered in water. Raman gives you a unique fingerprint technique for each component. Each material has it’s own profile.”
There’s a UK company also using Raman and they’ve got products on the market. However, the big difference from the QUT device and everyone else’s is that Raman normally only works in the dark and up close. QUT is the first to get it to work in daylight and without the laser touching the surface of the container it’s analysing.
qutbluebox was impressed by Dr Kiriakous’ research and we’ve already put $128,000 into developing the device. It came through initial proof-of-concept trials but it’s still sitting on the bench. So we’re talking with industry and potential investors to try and get the laser into the market.
If we’re successful, it won’t be just forensic scientists looking to use the laser.
Our analysts believe the device has a range of applications:
• Medicine – to scan patients for conditions such as cancer
• Mining – determine the metals in soil/rock profiles (to mine or not to mine)
• Security – easily scan packages, suitcases and bags for drugs or explosives
• Pharmaceutical & Food industries – remotely monitor the quality and composition of products without having to stop production.