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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Remote explosion of land mines

Land mines are a devastating problem in some parts of the world, including Columbia, from which Félix Vega and Nicolas Mora, doctoral students at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, originate. The two young scientists made finding a way to remote detonate those mines the subject of their thesis projects.

The solution they came up with was to send out electromagnetic pulses that would trigger the mines’ detonators. Although simple in concept, it took two years to find a way to send a pulse that was powerful enough to reach the detonators, which could be buried deep underground. Eventually, they found the right frequency range and were able to detonate mines (provided by bomb disposal experts) at a distance of 20 meters.

The researchers still have some work ahead of them to improve the device. As Félix Vega says:

Now we have to develop a smaller prototype that is weather-resistant and especially easier to transport in the field. In Colombia, we often have to travel on small country roads.

If this method is successful in the field, it will be a tremendous help not only to the native people who are currently injured in great numbers by the mines, but also to the military personnel tasked to remove those mines.