The multipurpose "sampler gun" rapidly collects and tracks
radiological, chemical, and biological samples in solid, liquid, or
gaseous forms. The technology has a "hands-off" capability that
minimizes the risk of sample cross-contamination and exposure risks to
sampling personnel. Among the gun's features are a temperature probe,
digital camera, GPS, microphone, pocket PC, e-compass, sonic distance
sensor, real-time force sensor, and a voice recognition module.
In the recent high-tech episode of CSI: NY
, the gun is used by Dr. Sheldon Hawkes (played by Hill Harper) to collect blood samples at a crime scene.
The sampler gun is a development from the Homeland Defense Technologies
Team headed by researcher Torsten Staab. According to Staab, the
catalyst for this technology is the area of industrial hygiene.
After talking to industrial hygienists at the Laboratory and other
Department of Energy sites and learning how time consuming their field
sample collection and tracking processes are, Staab thought there must
be a faster, more efficient way.
"The general idea is to minimize the potential for sample and human
cross-contamination, digitize all the sampling-related field data
acquisition, and get away from the traditional pen and paper-based
tracking," Staab said.
Development of the gun began in 2004 with a technology
commercialization grant from the Department of Defense, Center for
Commercialization of Advanced Technology. Such grants are aimed at
sponsoring emerging technologies that have applications in homeland
After learning of the industrial hygienists' challenges, Staab realized
that forensic and crime-scene investigators have similar issues when it
comes to tracking field data and documenting chain-of-custody for
samples. He then started talking to the Federal Bureau of Investigation
about potential features that could be added to make the gun useful for
According to Staab, the technology has received significant exposure
through leading international forensic publications over the last six
months. It also was featured on Court TV in July 2007 in an emerging
forensic technologies segment and on national TV in December 2006 on a
show called Discoveries & Breakthroughs - Detecting Deadly Chemicals
, produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News.
"I think it's pretty cool to see your own technology on such a popular
TV show," Staab said of the gun's debut on CSI: NY. "Even my parents in
Germany will be able to see it, as CSI is also very popular in Europe.
I think that this will be also a good marketing tool for LANL and its
Technology Transfer Division."