Imperial College London

New technology could make landmine detection in peat soils easier and cheaper

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Minefield warning in Surf Bay, Falkland Islands

Minefield warning in Surf Bay, Falkland Islands

The Hazelab research group at Imperial is working on a novel technology that uses controlled combustion to expose landmines buried in peat.

The innovation, called O-Revealer, detects landmines with the help of controlled smouldering fire. A proof of concept paper has been accepted for publication in the Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science journal.

Hazelab researchers conducted laboratory experiments under different soil moisture and wind conditions, with two different types of dummy mines, one metallic, the other one made of plastic. A slow-burning, flameless fire was ignited and spread across peat, exposing buried mines for easy identification.

Schematic of how O-Revealer could be applied so that the smouldering fire spreads over a peat minefield (a) before reaching the landmines, and (b) after spreading over the landmines.

Applying O-Revealer: (a) before the fire reaches the landmines, (b) after spreading over the landmines.

 

The study also discusses how to control and minimise the disadvantages of this method, such as the risk of accidental triggering of the landmines due to heating, and the environmental impact on soil ecology.

Dr Guillermo Rein believes O-Revealer could become the technology of choice in areas where minefields are situated in peatlands, such as the Falkland Islands, Vietnam, Burma, Laos or the former Yugoslavia.

(a) SB-33 plastic landmine, (b) PROM-1 metal landmine

(a) SB-33 plastic landmine, (b) PROM-1 metal landmine

 

“In peat minefields, O-Revealer would be an inexpensive and reliable technology that is easy to deploy, and that excels at the most important issues of humanitarian demining, including detection of non-metallic mines, avoiding false negatives and reaching high demining rates”, Dr Rein says.

A necessary next step for further development of the concept is a pilot study in a real minefield environment. The Imperial scientists hope to use their innovation in the future to assist the UK Government’s demining project in the Falkland Islands.

Experimental setup before ignition

Experimental setup before ignition

Read the full paper:

G Rein, X Huang, F Restuccia, T McArdle, Detection of landmines in peat soils by controlled smouldering combustion: Experimental proof of concept of O-Revealer, Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science, (in press), 2017.

Header photo by Flickr user marksmanuk, used under Creative Commons license.

Reporter

Nadia Barbu

Nadia Barbu
Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 7090
Email: n.barbu@imperial.ac.uk

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