Recognition of explosives fingerprints on objects for courier services using machine learning methods & laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy

J. Moros, J. Serrano, F.J. Gallego, J. Macías, J.J. Laserna, Talanta, 2013, 110, 108 – 117


During recent years laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) has been considered one of the techniques with larger ability for trace detection of explosives. However, despite of the high sensitivity exhibited for this application, LIBS suffers from a limited selectivity due to difficulties in assigning the molecular origin of the spectral emissions observed. This circumstance makes the recognition of fingerprints a latent challenging problem. In the present manuscript the sorting of six explosives (chloratite, ammonal, DNT, TNT, RDX and PETN) against a broad list of potential harmless interferents (butter, fuel oil, hand cream, olive oil, …), all of them in the form of fingerprints deposited on the surfaces of objects for courier services, has been carried out. When LIBS information is processed through a multi-stage architecture algorithm built from a suitable combination of 3 learning classifiers, an unknown fingerprint may be labeled into a particular class. Neural network classifiers trained by the Levenberg-Marquardt rule were decided within 3D scatter plots projected onto the subspace of the most useful features extracted from the LIBS spectra. Experimental results demonstrate that the presented algorithm sorts fingerprints according to their hazardous character, although its spectral information is virtually identical in appearance, with rates of false negatives and false positives not beyond of 10%. These reported achievements mean a step forward in the technology readiness level of LIBS for this complex application related to defense, homeland security and force protection.

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