Photoacoustic spectroscopy for remote detection of liquid contamination

Michael Harris*, Brian Perrett, David M. Benton, David V. Willetts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The remote detection and identification of liquid chemical contamination is a difficult problem for which no satisfactory solution has yet been found. We have investigated a new technique, pulsed indirect photoacoustic spectroscopy (PIPAS), and made an assessment of its potential for operation at stand-off ranges of order 10m. The method involves optical excitation of the liquid surface with a pulsed laser operating in the 9-11μm region. Pulse lengths are of order 3μs, with energy ∼300μJ and repetition rates ∼200Hz. Rapid heating of the liquid by the laser pulse produces acoustic emission at the surface, and this is detected by a sensitive directional microphone to increase the signal-to-noise ratio and reduce background clutter. The acoustic pulse strength is related to the liquid's absorption coefficient at the laser wavelength; tuning allows spectroscopic investigation and a means of chemical identification. Maximum coverage rates have been examined, and further experiments have examined the specificity of the technique, allowing a preliminary assessment of false-alarm and missed-signal rates. The practical aspects of applying the technique in a field environment have been assessed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Pages (from-to)136-144
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004
EventOptically Based Biological and Chemical Sensing for Defence - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Oct 200428 Oct 2004

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2004 SPIE. One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic reproduction, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper are prohibited.


  • Chemical
  • Liquid
  • Photoacoustic
  • Remote-sensing
  • Spectroscopy
  • Stand-off


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