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Explosive detection system using nuclear techniques


There are currently over 1 billion unexploded landmines in more than 75 countries, and it is estimated that a person is injured or killed by a mine every 20 minutes.

Many of the antipersonnel mines that have been used after World War II are relatively small, about the size of a computer mouse. The metallic content of these devices is very small, making their detection by metal detectors practically impossible.

The MINEFIND Project is developing an innovative solution for their detection and subsequent deactivation. The vast majority of explosives used in landmines are very rich in nitrogen compared to other materials, therefore, this element can be detected using Elemental Analysis with Neutrons.

IDOM has started the development of a system based on the identification of characteristic gamma rays emitted by Nitrogen-15, in an excited state when subjected to a neutron flux.

The nucleus made up of Nitrogen-15 is de-excited almost instantaneously, becoming more stable through the emission of one or more characteristic instantaneous gamma rays that are detected thanks to the use of the nuclear technique called Prompt-gamma neutron activation analysis, (PGNAA).

The neutron-based method for the elemental characterization of a buried object would also allow mines to be cleared much more quickly and with greater efficiency, since most of the alerts using other techniques, for example metal detectors, are caused by harmless scrap fragments.

With the collaboration of the Bilbao School of Engineers, Tecnalia and the National Center for Accelerators, IDOM has been developing this project.

July 29, 2021

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César Hueso ( cesar.hueso@idom.com )