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Researchers develop device that remotely explodes IEDs using electromagnetic energy

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February 15, 2011

A Stryker lies on its side following a buried IED blast in Iraq in 2007

A Stryker lies on its side following a buried IED blast in Iraq in 2007

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have attracted a lot of attention as a result of their use in Iraq and Afghanistan, but IEDs are used by guerillas and terrorist groups in many parts of the world, including Colombia. Being sensitive to the problem of IEDs, two Colombian doctoral students from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) set about looking for a way to explode such devices at a distance. In collaboration with two Colombian Universities the EPFL students developed a device that can explode IEDs remotely by using energy from their electromagnetic impulses.

The two main technical difficulties the students, Félix Vega and Nicolas Mora, had to address in developing their system were finding a way of inducting a current that would be strong enough to set off the detonators of the mines at a distance, and of ensuring they were attaining the resonance frequencies of the various types of mines, which are all constructed in different ways.

To scan the highest possible number of frequencies, it’s necessary to create short impulses with a very fast response time. But spanning a large spectrum of resonances results in only a fraction of the impulse created reaching the target. This means that by the time the current reaches the target, it is no longer strong enough to explode the mine.

"We then realized that in spite of the wide diversity of these mines, they are however all in similar frequency ranges", said Nicolas Mora. "So we developed a system that concentrates on those, and thus loses less energy."

The researchers’ system was tested at the Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory in Colombia using actual improvised mines provided by a team of professional bomb disposal experts. They were successfully able to set off the mines at an average distance of 20 m (65.6 ft).

The achievement of the EPFL-led team is the result of two years of research work and they are now working to develop a smaller prototype that is weather resistant and easier to transport in the field.

With the wide variety of IEDs it remains to be seen whether the students’ device will be effective against all IEDs but, when it is ready for the field, it should prove a valuable addition to the arsenal of those whose dangerous job it is to disarm the devices that kill or mutilate hundreds of thousands of people every year.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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6 Comments

Another Nicolas, one century later.EPFL like MIT, influenced by the genius of Nikola Tesla. Congratulations, very good inspiration.Inductive electromagnetism is the best way for many future devices.

Sergius
16th February, 2011 @ 06:00 am PST

So you put one of these gizmos on a remotely piloted model helicopter and fly it slowly in front of any convoy. It'll explode the IEDs before the convoy gets to them.

HenryFarkas
16th February, 2011 @ 09:03 am PST

Umm, would this work on grenades/rockets too?

DnArturo
16th February, 2011 @ 10:30 am PST

So the legendary EMP Gun does exist.

Banks will be quaking today...

quatermass
17th February, 2011 @ 04:16 am PST

1st, Congratulation to Dr.Félix Vega and Dr.Nicolas Mora, (upgrade instead).New age in weaponry start now on, I mean it!

twt
23rd February, 2011 @ 04:52 am PST

If this creates an EMP capable of inducing enough current to detonate a device, what does it do to other circuitry? E.g. what if you set off a pulse next to a telephone exchange...

Adrien
15th September, 2011 @ 06:26 pm PDT
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