Monday, November 29, 1999

Physicists assemble low cost, high tech landmine detector

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Washington, June 17 (IANS) Physicists have assembled a low-cost yet high-tech mine detector. The system costs about $10,000, or less than a hundredth of the laser-based Doppler remote detection systems sold for more than $1 million, each.John Scales, physics professor at Colorado School of Mines (CSM), along with his associate Martin Smith and students, built a new system using microwave-based sensors to detect vibrations in the ground (or other structures).Microwaves have many other advantages including that they can see through foliage.'Landmines are an enormous problem around the world for both military personnel and civilians,' explained Scales.'We've developed an ultrasound technique to first shake the ground and then a microwave component to detect ground motion that indicates location of the landmine. We hope that the two components together enable us to detect the landmines in a safe fashion, from a distance.'Many other applications exist for remote vibration sensing, including monitoring the structural integrity of buildings, bridges and dams.Multiple approaches exist for landmine detection, from trained dogs and rats that detect chemicals used in the explosives to biosensor plants that change colours in response to soil conditions altered by mines, said a CSM release.'The reason so many people are working on this problem from so many angles,' said Scales, 'is that there is no one scheme that works well all the time. You need an arsenal of tools.'The project has been sponsored by US Army Research Lab's Army Research Office.These findings appear in the Journal of Applied Physics, published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

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