"Under a contract from the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA], Raytheon and partner Worcester Polytechnic Institute will program two bacterial strains to monitor ground services for explosive materials," the release said.
The first strain will detect the presence or absence of explosives buried underground, the release said. If the first strain detects explosives, the second strain will produce a glowing light on the ground's surface.
Remote cameras or unmanned aerial vehicles can then be used to survey large areas for the telltale luminescence, the release added.
"We already know that some bacteria can be programmed to be very good at detecting explosives, but it's harder underground," principal investigator for the Bio Reporters for Subterranean Surveillance program at Raytheon BBN Technologies Allison Taggart said. "We're investigating how to transport the reporting bacteria to the required depth underground, and then pushing the luminescence up to the surface so it's easily visible."
The difficulty involved in detecting buried improvised explosive devices (IEDs) makes them some of the deadliest weapons targeting service members of US and partner nations in counterterror operations.