Washington: Lasers may pick out roadside bombs and help in identifying improvised explosive devices (IEDs), often used by terrorists, new research says.

Marcos Dantus, chemistry professor at the Michigan State University and founder of BioPhotonic Solutions, a high-tech company, have devised the new laser, the journal Applied Physics Letters reports.

The detection of IEDs is extremely challenging because the environment injects a large number of chemical compounds that mask the select few molecules that one is trying to detect, said Dantus, according to a Michigan statement.

Dantus' latest laser can make these distinctions even for quantities as small as a fraction of a billionth of a gram.

The laser beam combines short pulses that kick the molecules and make them vibrate, as well as long pulses that are used to 'listen' and identify the different 'chords'.

The chords include different vibrational frequencies that uniquely identify every molecule, much like a fingerprint. The high-sensitivity laser can work with cameras and allows users to scan questionable areas from a safe distance.

“The laser and the method we have developed were originally intended for microscopes, but we were able to adapt and broaden its use to demonstrate its effectiveness for standoff detection of explosives,“ said Dantus.