The research arm of the Justice Department is working on two portable non-lethal weapons that inflict pain from a distance using beams of laser light or microwaves, reports New Scientist magazine. The devices under development by the National Institute of Justice build on knowledge gained from the Pentagon’s controversial Active Denial System (ADS) – first demonstrated in public last year, which uses a beam of short microwaves to heat up the outer layer of a person’s skin and cause pain. Like the ADS, the new portable devices will also heat the skin, but will have beams only a few centimeters across. They are designed to elicit what the Pentagon calls a “repel response” – a strong urge to escape from the beam.
An NIJ spokesperson likens the effect of the new devices to that of “blunt trauma” weapons such as rubber bullets, “But unlike blunt trauma devices, the injury should not be present. This research is looking to reduce the injuries to suspects,” says NIJ. Existing blunt trauma weapons can break ribs or even kill, making alternatives welcome. With ADS, of several thousand tests on human subjects there were two cases of second-degree burns. The NIJ’s laser weapon has been dubbed Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response – PHaSR – and resembles a bulky rifle. It was created in 2005 by a U.S. Air Force agency to temporarily dazzle enemies, but the addition of a second, infrared laser makes it able to heat skin too.