Volume 17, Number 1

17-1 cover

Lab Notes

Looking Back

Meeting the Chem–Bio Defense Challenge
By Darryl Greenwood

Biological and chemical agents are a significant and growing risk to society. Traditionally thought of as agents of war, these materials are likely to be used by terrorists of the future. This threat is well recognized at the national level; the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and various government agencies are making significant investments in chemical and biological defense. At Lincoln Laboratory, research on chemical and biological defensive measures began in 1995 and has since grown into a formal Laboratory mission area. Principal activities are in sensor development and testing, facility defense, integrated systems, decision support, and medical surveillance. Many of the Laboratory's prototypes have found their way into operational systems through effective technology transfer.

Advanced Trigger Development  
By Thomas H. Jeys, William D. Herzog, John D. Hybl, Richard N. Czerwinski, and Antonio Sanchez

The deadliest form of a biological attack is aerosolized agents dispersed into the atmosphere. Early detection of aerosolized biological agents is important for defense against these agents. Because of the wide range of possible attack scenarios and attack responses, there is also a wide range of detector requirements. This article focuses on real-time, single-particle, optically based bio-agent trigger detectors—the first responder to an aerosol attack—and how to engineer these detectors to achieve optimal detection performance.

Rapid Sensors for Biological-Agent Identification  
By Martha S. Petrovick, James D. Harper, Frances E. Nargi, Eric D. Schwoebel, Mark C. Hennessy, Todd H. Rider, and Mark A. Hollis

We have developed genetically engineered white-blood cells and inexpensive sensor hardware for the rapid identification of pathogens and toxins. The assays we have developed by using these cells demonstrate the best known combination of speed and sensitivity. In addition to detecting pathogens, CANARY (for Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) detects soluble protein toxins—an important class of potential bioweapon—and DNA and RNA sequences. CANARY's capabilities open possible applications in pathogen genotyping, virulence testing, antibiotic resistance screening, and viability assessment. For biological defense applications, we have incorporated CANARY technology into a flexible biological-aerosol sensor platform called PANTHER that can form the core of a family of mission-specific bio-aerosol identification sensors useful as standalone sensors for site/building protection, emergency response, rapid screening, and environmental monitoring.

Early Warning Chemical Sensing  
By Juliette A. Seeley and Jonathan M. Richardson

The threat of chemical weapon attacks has prompted the defense community's development of standoff chemical sensors, designed to provide advance warning of an attack from a distance. Lincoln Laboratory has assessed the mission requirements for two relevant applications—wide-area chemical surveillance and inexpensive fixed-site protection—and developed sensor concepts optimized for each mission.

Health Surveillance and Diagnosis for Mitigating a Bioterror Attack  ›
By Adam Szpiro, Bernadette Johnson, and David Buckeridge

The most significant factor in minimizing the adverse impact on public health of a biological-warfare-agent aerosol attack is the time required to receive appropriate treatment. We look at two human-health surveillance techniques designed to reduce the time window between attack and the start of treatment. In the first technique, syndromic surveillance, data are assembled from a variety of sources, including primary reported symptoms in emergency departments, calls to 911, pharmacy records of specific treatments, and school absenteeism. Assimilation of these data sources can provide an early indicator of a regional or local outbreak of infectious disease. The second approach, the Biological-Agent Correlation Tracker (BACTrack), offers a means of locating, in space and time, the probable origin of an attack through the use of a volunteer population who report their health status to a central source and who also carry some kind of location tracking device.

Modeling Responses to Anthrax and Smallpox Attacks  ›
By Diane C. Jamrog, Michael P. Shatz, and Cassandra Smith

If safeguards against a biological attack fail, the paramount task will be to treat those who have been infected with biological agents. We have investigated requirements for responding to anthrax and smallpox attacks. We have also studied the benefit of an early response made possible by detection methods such as biosensors. We conclude that early medical response can mitigate an anthrax attack, and that the rate of antibiotic distribution is important in reducing casualties. For a smallpox attack, we identify circumstances under which the outbreak can be controlled primarily by a strategy of contact tracing and isolation, and we identify situations that call for supplementing those measures with mass vaccination.

Protecting Buildings against Airborne Contamination  ›
By Daniel Cousins and Steven D. Campbell

For both homeland security and military defense, buildings must be defended against airborne chemical and biological hazards. In considering which types of attacks might occur, it is clear that many different hazardous contaminants and scenarios can be involved. Fortunately, buildings offer many options for contaminant mitigation and exposure reduction. Passive protective measures have been effectively used for years and include architectural features, physical security, and air filtration. Recently emerging air monitoring sensors allow active protective measures that can complement and extend the protection afforded by passive measures. These active measures include HVAC and building mechanical changes, directed use of personnel protective equipment, and directed movement of occupants to safe shelter. Determining the most appropriate integrated protective system is a daunting systems engineering problem. This problem is addressable by using several quantitative figures of merit, as shown by case studies of the Hanscom Lincoln Testbed/Hazardous Environmental Protection System.

Information Fusion and Response Guidance  ›
By Timothy J. Dasey and Jerome J. Braun

The uncertain and disparate information sources needed to properly assess potential threats, and the relatively untrained and inexperienced users, make development of decision support technologies critical for full realization of the value of chemical and biological (CB) defense technologies. Lincoln Laboratory is pursuing several research and development efforts in decision support for CB defense. We discuss here fusion of information sources in the context of several example algorithmic efforts, and describe applications such as decision support for mail screening and detection of biological agents in a subway station.

Recovery of Organisms and Nucleic Acids from Complex Samples  ›
By Lalitha Parameswaran, Laura Bortolin, Catherine Cabrera, and Christina Rudzinski

Proper sample preparation, a fundamental step in identifying and responding to potential bioterrorist attacks, is required to isolate biological or chemical targets from the extraneous material in which they may be contained, particularly if the targets are present in very low concentrations. Procedures that are straightforward in the laboratory can pose significant challenges when performed in the field, but they can be facilitated by well-designed tools that are easy to use under stressful conditions. Our goal has been to develop fast, easy techniques for sample preparation prior to analysis for identification. Because our clients consist primarily of soldiers, field inspectors, and first responders, we have focused on protocols and devices that require little or no power, are lightweight and fieldable, and can be carried out by personnel with little or no technical background.

Addressing the Multicore Trend with Automatic Parallelization  ›
By Nadya Bliss

The slowdown of Moore's Law and the need to process increasingly large data sets are driving the computer hardware community to develop multicore chips in addition to the already prevalent commodity cluster systems and multiprocessor embedded systems. As parallel processors become ubiquitous, reducing the complexity of parallel programming becomes increasingly important. Lincoln Laboratory has developed an automatic parallelization framework, called pMapper, which is general with regard to programming languages and computer architectures and which focuses on distributing operations common in signal processing.

Lab Notes

  • Pump on a Chip › A microfluidic lab-on-a-chip moves tiny volumes of fluids around on a silicon chip without the use of external pumps and valves.
  • Small Packages › A new way to squeeze compound semiconductors onto silicon chips promises smaller, more efficient microelectronics.
  • Power to Go › Integrating a thermovoltaic device with a butane-fueled combustor yields an efficient source of portable power to challenge batteries.
  • A Little Light Work › Getting silicon to respond to light could usher in a new era of integrated optical devices.
  • No More Babel? › An algorithm that accounts for parts of speech lowers a key barrier to real-time language translation.
  • Detector Avoids Speed Traps › Photodiodes sensitive around 1.9 μm could sense biological and chemical agents.
  • Shadowy Work › Arrays of telescopes figure out what satellites are doing by looking at their silhouettes.

Looking Back

  • Saving a Satellite › Forty years ago, a Lincoln Laboratory team spent agonizing hours waiting for a pioneering UHF communications satellite to wake up.
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