A research team at CSIRO – Australia’s national science agency – has developed a new landmine detection technology. CSIRO and RFC Ambrian have partnered to establish a new company named MRead to turn this technology into hand-held detectors that more quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively detect landmines for clearing.
The hand-held devices use magnetic resonance (MR) technology to detect the molecular signature of explosives used in landmines. They are able to avoid the white noise of metal objects – such as bottle caps and shrapnel – which can slow down the metal detection and clearance process currently in use.
MR is used for the quantitative measurement of target elements in crystalline compounds, as the resonance at a particular radio frequency for the element is highly discriminating for that compound. The technique applies pulses of radio frequency fields using non-contact sensors, with the frequency of the field set to a particular compound’s resonance. When used for the detection of explosives, MR measurements will usually test for the presence of elements such as N, K, and Cl, where the resonance frequency is highly specific to the particular explosive being targeted.
“The magnetic resonance landmine detection technology will have a profound impact on areas recovering from and currently experiencing hardship and danger from uncleared minefields,” said John Shanahan, Retired Brigadier and Managing Director of MRead. “These enduring explosive remnants of war inhibit freedom of movement and limit access to food, water, schools, hospitals, and shelter, which jeopardizes the safe recovery and return of civilian populations. MRead is excited to bring this game-changing technology into the market to speed up the process of clearing minefields, improve confidence in detection and bring down the cost of demining.”
A nonprofit group, The HALO Trust, will be the first client to use the device in landmine-affected regions in Southeast Asia next year.
“The precision of this technology will be a game-changer for landmine-clearing efforts, delivering a solution that is faster and more reliable than current detectors, which in turn protects the people doing the clearing and expands the range of clearing efforts to make the world a safer place,” said CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall.