Heavy metal

Engineers at RyersonUniversity in Toronto, Canada and the AmericanUniversity of Beirut in Lebanon have developed a way to use infrared imaging to locate landmines more safely and quickly.

Zouheir Fawaz, associate dean and professor of the department of aerospace engineering, said most anti-personnel devices, usually buried beneath a few inches of soil, are detected by prodding the ground with a metal rod.

Fawaz and Fadl Moukalled, along with Nesreen Ghaddar and Yamen Saleh of the AmericanUniversity of Beirut, researched how a specially designed infrared camera can be used to detect landmines by picking up their thermal signature.

Objects absorb heat and cool down at different rates, explained Fawaz, so an infrared camera would be able to detect the differences in temperature between two objects buried in the ground and display the heat variations on to a screen.

The researchers tested the device on defunct landmines in one of the labs in the BeirutUniversity using diffused devices that were 10cm in diameter and 5cm thick. These were buried in containers of soil, in which the depth and moisture content were varied. The researchers then analysed whether the object detected by the camera was indeed a landmine.

The researchers found that the deeper the landmine was buried, the more difficult it was to detect with the infrared camera. If the detonation device had a covering of less than 2cm, as in the case of many anti-personnel landmines, Fawaz said that an infrared beam could easily pick up its thermal signature