A resonance ionization imaging device (RIID) and method for imaging objects using the RIID are provided, the RIID system including a RIID cell containing an ionizable vapor including monoisotopic atoms or molecules, the cell being positioned to intercept scattered radiation of a resonance wavelength .lambda..sub.1 from the object which is to be detected or imaged, a laser source disposed to illuminate the RIID cell with laser radiation having a wavelength .lambda..sub.2 or wavelengths .lambda..sub.2, .lambda..sub.3 selected to ionize atoms in the cell that are in an excited state by virtue of having absorbed the scattered resonance laser radiation, and a luminescent screen at the back surface of the RIID cell which presents an image of the number and position of charged particles present in the RIID cell as a result of the ionization of the excited state atoms. The method of the invention further includes the step of initially illuminating the object to be detected or imaged with a laser having a wavelength selected such that the object will scatter laser radiation having the resonance wavelength .lambda..sub.1.
Support leading to the completion and reduction to practice of the invention was supported in part by Grant No. DE-FG05-88-ER13881 issued by the Department of Energy. The United States Government has certain rights in and to the present invention.