New Sensor Developed to Detect Bombs On Sea Floor

First Posted: Nov 28, 2012 05:15 AM EST

A new sensor has been developed that detects undetonated explosives on the sea floor. It is based on a technology used to find mineral deposits underground.

The novel sensor was developed as a part of a project with U.S. Government agency, the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and US-based research organization Sky Research.

According to Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization electrical engineer Dr Keith Leslie, the method for finding undetonated underwater explosives is very similar to that used to detect underground mineral deposits.

"Our highly sensitive sensor - the high temperature superconducting tensor gradiometer - delivers significantly more information about the target's magnetic field than conventional sensors used for this type of detection," he said.

"It provides data on the location, characterization and magnetic qualities of a target - whether it is a gold deposit or an explosive."

According to SERDP, nearly 10 million acres of coastal waters are contaminated by undetonated explosives. Typically these small explosives rust and corrode at sea, making them even more dangerous.

"The marine environment is difficult to sample due to electrical currents produced by waves, which affect underwater magnetic fields," Dr Leslie said.

"In mineral exploration, near surface deposits are being exhausted, leading our search for minerals deeper underground, where targets are more difficult to detect with traditional surface and airborne measurements."

Access to geological information that discriminates between prospective and non-prospective areas or targets can be gained by the sensors. This sensor reduces the burden of drilling and minimizes the risk of overlooking valuable mineral deposits.

"Our sensor has a critical advantage for small targets such as undetonated explosives, where only one or two measurements may be near the target," Dr Leslie said.

"In mineral exploration, a string of measurements of the gradients of the magnetic field down a drill hole can determine the direction to the target."

The sensor has been proved in a stationary laboratory environment. Trials have been conducted to prove it in motion in preparation for anticipated underwater trials.

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