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Electromagnetic Energy Could Save Lives by Detonating IEDs

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), otherwise known as roadside bombs, are hard to detect and are responsible for many of the casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as well as hundreds of thousands of deaths or serious injuries of both military and civilians each year. Detonating them remotely could save many lives. A team of doctoral students in Switzerland is using electromagnetic energy to do just that.

[Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Carl Harris inspects the remaining high explosive material from a disrupted improvised explosive device (IED) during a training exercise May 2005 in Bahrain. IEDs are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths or serious injuries of both military and civilians each year. Photo & caption by Aaron Ansarov, U.S. Navy.]

Félix Vega and Nicolas Mora, PhD students at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory, developed a device that uses the energy from electromagnetic impulses to detonate IEDs remotely.

Vega and Mora worked to find a current that could set off the IEDs' detonators from a distance even when they were buried deep in the ground. They also found a frequency range that applied to a variety of mine types that differ in their construction.

To test their device the duo went to their homeland of Colombia where IED use is a real problem. Vega and Mora were able to explode actual improvised mines from an average range of 20 meters (65 feet). The mines had been created by professional bomb disposal experts.

Vega and Mora are now working to develop a smaller device that is portable and weather resistant and could be used on small rural roads like those in Colombia. Their work was done with the cooperation of two Colombian universities: The National University of Colombia and the University of Los Andes.

For more about their project, check out the press release at EurekAlert!

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