Sensor Detects Explosives Underwater
November 26, 2012

New Sensor Helps Detect Underwater Explosives

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new sensor has been developed to help detect whether or not a boat may be floating on top of a bomb laying on the sea floor.

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Sky Research joined together with CSIRO in a project to develop the bomb sniffer.

CSIRO electrical engineer Dr. Keith Leslie said the method for finding undetonated underwater explosives is 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 in a statement.

He said the sensor provides data on the location, characterization and magnetic qualities of a target, helping to determine whether it is a piece of gold or a bomb.

SERDP estimates there are over 10 million acres of coastal waters that are contaminated by undetonated explosives. After a while, these explosives rust and corrode at sea, which ultimately could make them more dangerous.

“The marine environment is difficult to sample due to electrical currents produced by waves, which affect underwater magnetic fields,” Leslie said in a statement.

He said their team looked for minerals deeper underground where targets are more difficult to detect with traditional surface and airborne measurements.

According to CSIRO, the sensors can help to provide valuable geological information to avoid unnecessary drilling, minimizing 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,” 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 technology could eventually renew exploration efforts at abandoned sites where drilling programs were based on insufficient or inaccurate information, according to CSIRO.

The company said trials have already been conducted to prove the sensor works in motion, preparing it for underwater trials.