Research and development activities sponsored by the federal government are an integral part of our national security strategy. Over the past five decades, National Laboratories have been the leading institutions in the US at the forefront of pure and fundamental research leading to both tactical and practical applications. The research conducted at these labs covers nearly all known scientific areas in many disciplines. In this talk, a short outline of the projects leading to the establishment of the Los Alamos National Laboratory will be presented. Examples of current research programs and their significance to our homeland security will be discussed. Additionally, many of these programs have a direct impact as potential novel forensic tools for law enforcement community.
The latter portion of this presentation will be focused on one of our current research projects exploiting switched plasma sources as universal detectors. For the past several years we have demonstrated the utility of transient ionization sources for elemental and structural information in complex matrices. These sources can potentially provide a wealth of information, with regard to the exact identity of constituents in complex samples, when used in conjunction with separation techniques.