Graduate Studies


First Advisor

Benjamin S. Terry

Second Advisor

Carl A. Nelson

Date of this Version


Document Type



Griswold, Austin (December 2022). Design and Implementation of a Detection System for Aerosolized Threats. MS Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfilment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Under the Supervision of Professors Benjamin S. Terry and Carl Nelson. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Austin Griswold


Aerosolized threat detection methods have been of increased interest for military and civilian safety in the United States since the events of September 11, 2001 and the associated anthrax letters. Threats of biological origin can have a widespread impact when released and often exposure to even a small amount can be dangerous. Existing systems of detection have been designed but often lacked ease of use and were difficult to transport. The objective of this research is to design, manufacture, and test an aerosolized threat detection system utilizing government off-the-shelf collectors and detectors. The systems are to effectively withstand transportation to deployment sites and function both as a fixed site unit inside a rigid structure as well as a portable unit able to operate at any location. Further, the systems are required to safely house all components from environmental conditions without compromising the collector or detector performance. Three systems were designed and manufactured, including a fixed site unit and two iterations of a portable unit. The system included a computer and LTE module to communicate data to WinTAK, a military mapping software, through a private server. This improved user experience and allowed for remote control of the system as well as live updates on the status of each device and local weather conditions, gathered by the incorporated weather station. The first portable system and the fixed site system were field-tested in New York City in October 2021 with tagged sugar molecules to simulate biological threats. The systems successfully detected various releases around the city and once analyzed, the collector filters had successfully captured a sample of each release. The final portable unit underwent military specified vibration testing, proving it could withstand 150 miles of rough transportation.

Advisor: Benjamin S. Terry and Carl Nelson