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Students Develop Remote IED Detonation Technology

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Two graduate students at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed a way to remotely detonate improvised explosive devices or IEDs, by using the energy from their electromagnetic impulses. Félix Vega and Nicolas Mora, both from Colombia, developed the technology as part of their doctoral theses, in cooperation with universities in Colombia.

Because IEDs are made of a variety of materials, mostly plastic and with little metal used, they are difficult to detect. But this type of mine has become the weapon of choice by guerrillas or terrorist groups in conflict zones, and found in many regions of the world, such as Colombia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They kill or mutilate hundreds of thousands of people every year, mainly civilians.

To build their system, the EPFL researchers had to overcome two main technical barriers. They first had to find a way of creating a current that would be strong enough to set off, at a distance, the detonators of the mines, sometimes buried deep in the ground. They also had to be sure of matching the radio frequencies of the various types of mines, which are all constructed in different ways.

The researchers discovered that despite the many varieties of construction, IEDs operate in similar radio frequency ranges. As a result, they could scan a narrower spectrum of frequencies, which made it possible to scan for IEDs and project a detonation signal at a longer range.

EPFL’s Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory tested the technology last November in Colombia. Working with professional bomb disposal experts, they were able to detonate real IEDs from an average distance of 20 meters. Vega and Mora now plan to develop a smaller and more rugged prototype for use in the field.

Read more: Water Blade Technology Developed to Disable IEDs

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