Imperial College London

In Brief: Imperial research improves our understanding of roadside bombs


Photograph: Sean Power for the Royal British Legion

A new £8 million centre launches at Imperial to improve our understanding of the injuries caused by roadside bombs.

Roadside bombs are the leading cause of death and injury for armed service personnel on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Advances in medicine and protective gear mean that soldiers have a greater chance of surviving a bomb blast than ever before, but those who are injured can face amputations, long-term disability and dependency.

Now, a new £8 million centre has launched at Imperial that aims to enable researchers to gain a better understanding of the injuries caused by roadside bombs, improve how such injuries are treated, and create better means of protecting people from bomb blasts.

Centre Director Professor Anthony Bull (Mechanical Engineering 1992, PhD 1995), from the Department of Bioengineering, said: “We urgently need to know more, so that we can protect and treat people more effectively. This centre can make a real difference to the survival and quality of life of those serving in conflicts.”

I very nearly lost my life for my country, so of course I absolutely welcome any research to better understand blast injuries and to treat and equip injured service personnel in the future

– Mark Ormrod, 28

Triple amputee and former Royal Marine Commando

Civilian engineers, scientists and military doctors at the Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial are already working on a number of projects, including developing an ‘intelligent’ combat boot. Insulated with putty, this would absorb and then deflect the impact of an anti-vehicle mine blast.

The team is also aiming to develop a test that can detect the early onset of blast lung – the most common cause of death among people who initially survive an explosion. Shockwaves from bomb blasts can cause internal trauma that can damage whole organs, as well as disrupting cellular and molecular processes. These injuries may not show for days, making it difficult for medical teams initially to detect and gauge the severity of blast trauma.

VIDEO EXTRA:Using real footage and sounds from the blastlab, a team of MSc Science Communication students, working on a project called Inside Knowledge, have reconstructed Seven Nation Army, a song by the White Stripes, from scratch:

Photo credit: Sean Power for the Royal British Legion

This article first appeared in Imperial Magazine, Issue 37. You can view and download a whole copy of the magazine, from


Colin Smith

Colin Smith
Communications and Public Affairs

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