New ways to sense landmines

Scottish researchers have recently published a study about an ultra-portable explosives sensor giving hope for a more reliable way to sense landmines. From the August 16, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

Decades after the bullets have stopped flying, wars can leave behind a lingering danger: landmines that maim civilians and render land unusable for agriculture. Minefields are a humanitarian disaster throughout the world, and now researchers in Scotland have designed a new device that could more reliably sense explosives, helping workers to identify and deactivate unexploded mines.

Other devices have used the change in a fluorescent polymer’s light-emitting power to detect explosive vapors, but the Scottish team’s prototype, described in the AIP’s new journal AIP Advances (“Ultra-portable explosives sensor based on a CMOS florescence lifetime analysis micro-system”), is the first to use a compact silicon-based micro-system to measure the change in the length of time an electron stays in the ‘excited’ higher energy state.

This measurement is less affected by environmental factors, such as stray light, which should make the device more reliable.

The sensor itself is 20 × 13 × 7 cm3,

A photo of the customized sensing box. Consisting of two ports for gas flow, two wires for connection to an external DC power supply and a USB connection, with the CMOS system sitting inside (Downloaded from

(There is open access to the article which is being distributed under a Creative Commons licence in the American Institute of Physics’ AIP Advances journal.)

According to the news item on Nanowerk, the prototype is not yet ready for commercialization but the researchers (Yue Wang, Bruce R. Rae, Robert K. Henderson, Zheng Gong, Jonathan Mckendry, Erdan Gu, Martin D. Dawson, Graham A. Turnbull, and Ifor D. W. Samuel) are hopeful that it will be possible soon.

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  1. Pingback: Nanotechnology-enabled detection of landmines with the naked eye « FrogHeart

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