Raytheon is partnering with Worcester Polytechnic Institute to develop a new method for detecting buried explosives using synthetic biology science through a contract with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Raytheon announced on Tuesday.
Under the contract and partnership, the program will create two bacterial strains to monitor ground surfaces for explosive materials.
“We already know that some bacteria can be programmed to be very good at detecting explosives, but it’s harder underground,” said Allison Taggart, Ph.D. and principal investigator for the Bio Reporters for Subterranean Surveillance program at Raytheon BBN Technologies. “We’re investigating how to transport the reporting bacteria to the required depth underground, and then pushing the luminescence up to the surface so it’s easily visible.”
The first strain will detect the presence or absence of explosives buried underground. If the first strain detects explosives, the second strain will produce a glowing light on the ground’s surface. Remote cameras or unmanned aerial vehicles can then be used to survey large areas for the telltale luminescence.
“Using bio sensors underground could help us save lives as well as detect threats to air quality and the water supply,” Taggart added. “The modular design of the system we’re developing will allow us to swap in different components as needed to detect various kinds of threats and contaminants.”
Raytheon Company, with 2018 sales of $27 billion and 67,000 employees, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, civil government and cybersecurity solutions. With a history of innovation spanning 97 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration, C5I products and services, sensing, effects, and mission support for customers in more than 80 countries.