07
October
1996
|
12:00 AM
America/New_York

Researchers to Study Land Mines

OSU RESEARCHERS WILL STUDY WAYS TO DETECT ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES

     COLUMBUS -- Researchers at The Ohio State University's 
Electroscience Laboratory have teamed with colleagues at four 
other institutions to devise new methods of safely detecting 
buried anti-personnel mines.

     The $6 million project runs for up to five years and will 
support research at Duke University, Stanford University, 
California Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech University and 
Ohio State.  It is part of a Multi University Research Initiative 
grant from the Department of the Army.  Ohio State's share is 
nearly $1.6 million over the five-year program.

     Experts estimate that there are 110 million land mines 
buried throughout at least 70 countries.  Last week, an 
international conference in Ottawa, Canada, closed with 50 
nations calling for an international ban on the manufacture and 
use of anti-personnel land mines.

     Accomplishing this goal will require new, sophisticated 
approaches to locating mines, compared to old methods which rely 
heavily on metal detection.  The researchers hope to provide new 
detection methods.

     Eric Walton and Jonathan Young, senior research scientists 
in electrical engineering, head a team of Ohio State scientists 
who will be using several new approaches to solve the detection 
problem.  The multi-university work is divided into 12 different 
projects that will concentrate on three research approaches: 
olfactory sensors that "sniff out" chemical traces of 
explosives; sensors that use radar, infrared or electromagnetic 
radiation to detect mines; and refinement and processing of the 
complex electronic signals such sensors produce.

     "In many cases, modern anti-personnel mines are made 
without metal and are difficult to detect with currently 
available equipment," Walton said.  "We hope to develop the 
fundamental scientific background that will lead to new ways of 
detecting these mines."

     In addition to Walton and Young, the Ohio State researchers 
include Leon Peters, professor emeritus; Walter Burnside, 
professor; Joel Johnson, assistant professor; Inder Gupta, 
research scientist; and Brian Baertlein, senior research 
associate, all in the electrical engineering department.
                             #
Contact:  Eric Walton or Jonathan Young, (614) 292-7981; 
Walton.1@osu.edu., Young.20@osu.edu.
Written by Earle Holland.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
(Editor's Note:  The following was released by Duke University.)

For immediate release                Contact: Monte Basgall
Oct. 8, 1996                         (919) 681-8057
                                     Basgallm@mail01.adm.duke.edu  

DUKE AND FOUR OTHER UNIVERSITIES BEGIN LANDMINE RESEARCH 

     DURHAM, N.C. -- Using $6 million in U.S. Army research 
funding to be channeled through Duke University, investigators at 
five different institutions will evaluate new electronic 
surveillance measures against a hidden and deadly menace: the 
concealed land mines currently endangering the populations of 
more than 60 nations.

     Researchers at Duke's School of Engineering will join others 
at Caltech, Georgia Tech, Ohio State University and Stanford 
University to explore innovations in mine detection ranging from 
a microelectronic chemical-sniffing "nose" and  through-the-air
ultrasound to ground-shaking seismic waves and unique 
mathematical and computational aids.

     The collaborators plan 12 different research projects to 
better detect buried -- and often diabolically clever -- military 
booby traps that often kill or maim innocent noncombatants.

     The projects will fall under three research areas:
     _ Chemical-sensing processes that mimic smell;
     _ Radar, magnetic, infrared and sound sensors;
     _ Sensor-information processing.

     "People who are trying to detect mines are smart, but the 
people placing the mines are also smart," said Lawrence Carin, a 
Duke associate professor of electrical and computer engineering 
who is principal investigator for the Department of Defense
"Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative" (MURI).

     "For example, the mines Iraq placed had electrical 
properties which were almost exactly the same as the sand," Carin 
said in an interview. "That made them extremely difficult to 
detect using electromagnetic means. And in Bosnia many of the 
mines are made out of wood; you just can't detect them with a 
metal detector."

     According to a Department of Defense research report, 
estimates of the number of uncleared mines worldwide range from 
85 million (by the U.S. Department of State) to 105 million (by 
the United Nations) spread over 62 nations. Between 500,000 and 1 
million new mines are believed to be deployed each year. And 
somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 people are said to be killed 
or maimed by them annually.

     Before the new MURI even begins, enough recent research has
been done on mine detection to fill a 1,036-page book on Carin's
desk with summaries of work on various kinds of radar, X-ray, 
magnetic, infrared, ultraviolet and laser devices.

     It would require an estimated $56 billion to clear out all 
the world's unexploded mines, said Richard Fair, a Duke professor 
of electrical and computer engineering who is also involved in 
the initiative.

     Fair's expertise is in the fabrication of semiconductor
microchips as well as tiny machines known as 
microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). His team will collaborate 
with Caltech chemists developing advanced electronic odor-
sniffing polymer strips -- branded a "nose on a chip" --  that 
can identify buried explosives much like specially-trained dogs.

     The Caltech team, led by chemistry professor Nathan Lewis, 
has already developed films sensitive enough to tell "beer from 
wine from hard liquor, dead fish from live fish, and rose oil 
from garlic" -- as well as being hypersensitive to TNT-related 
explosives, according to a research outline.

     These special "olfactory" sensors discriminate between those
odors by measuring how different chemical vapors change the
polymers' electrical resistance.  "It's not really on a chip yet, 
but it will be," Fair said.

      Fair's team will help Caltech's nose "sniff" better by
researching new ways to find and deliver to the sensors tell-tale
vapors from the buried mines. The researchers will capitalize on 
the Duke School of Engineering's expertise in ultrasound -- a 
technology that uses high-pitched sound waves to create images of 
hidden internal anatomy.

     While ultrasound waves used in medicine or industry are
typically transmitted through fluids or bodily tissues, Fair's 
group has been working on a tiny MEMS device that can send and 
receive ultrasound in the open air. A strong enough ultrasound 
signal sent that way could penetrate the ground and detect 
otherwise unobtainable signatures of buried mines there, he said.

     "We would have a steering-and-location MEMS ultrasound 
system," Fair added. He proposes building a mobile device that 
would guide odor-detecting microchips to locations that 
ultrasound reflections suggest harbor mines. Once on location, 
the ultrasound beams would also be intense enough to stir up 
underground chemical particles for identification as explosives.

     Then another MEMS detector that Fair proposes building would
suck up those chemical particles, weigh them, and analyze them 
"so that the nose on a chip would have additional sensitivity," 
he said.  Fair's calculations show a minuscule balancing beam 
microengineered out of silicon could easily weigh particles as 
light as 10 trillionths of a gram (one gram weighs .035 ounce).

     MEMS manufacturing techniques are similar to those used to
fashion microchips. That means MEMS mine-detection devices could 
be fabricated at MCNC, a microelectronics and computer research 
center in Research Triangle Park founded by area universities and 
the state of North Carolina, said Fair, a former MCNC vice 
president.

     Carin, a radar expert who began researching radar's
applications to mine detection during his six years at Brooklyn
Polytechnic Institute, said his new Ohio State collaborators "are
some of the real pioneers in this. We saw this research 
initiative as an avenue where we can finally work together."

     The Ohio State team, led by senior research scientist in
electrical engineering Eric Walton, will use an experimental test
range to evaluate advanced strategies for using ground-
penetrating radar technology in mine detection.

     Meanwhile, Georgia Tech investigators, led by associate
engineering professor Waymond Scott, will add a new seismic 
approach to radar detection, Carin said. "They're going to shake 
the ground to try and produce a seismic, or acoustic wave -- a 
very tiny earthquake, if you will."

     Using either a loudspeaker or a ground-contact vibrator, 
they will look for differences in the way buried mines and 
surrounding soils respond to the shaking. The Georgia Tech 
researchers will then see if those differences can be highlighted 
by radar beams aimed at the shaking surface soils. The hope is 
for improvement on using radar alone, which has difficulty 
penetrating much below the ground surface, Carin said.

     OSU researchers also will join Duke electrical and computer
engineering professor Erol Gelenbe and assistant professor Leslie
Collins in exploring the potentials of infrared radiation for
detecting mines.

     Invisible infrared radiation, which humans can sense as 
heat, is the basis for special night vision goggles the military 
uses to detect after-dark troop movements. According to a 
research initiative proposal, the most sensitive infrared 
detectors might also register subtle surface temperature effects 
produced by buried mines.

     In joint work with Georgia Tech, Collins also will work on
strategies to improve synthetic aperture radar, which uses 
computer technology, fog-penetrating microwave frequencies and a 
moving antenna to build up radar images that grow sharper over a 
period of time.

     Another mine-detection approach -- spraying the soil with
frigid liquid nitrogen or "highly cooled" air -- will be explored 
by Carin with Caltech and Ohio State researchers. That research 
will evaluate whether freezing the soil would increase radar 
penetration or cause other changes detectable by infrared or 
odor-sniffing devices.

     Carin and Duke electrical engineering professor William 
Joines also will help develop a new magnetic-detection technology 
-- a pulsed magnetic sensor. "Magnetic sensors right now are 
basically the state of the art in the Army right now," Carin 
said. "And, working with people from industry, we can actually do 
much better than is currently being done."

     They will assist EG&G of Albuquerque, N.M., one of three
"industrial partners" in the MURI and the prime developers of the 
new magnetic sensor. EG&G and the other two firms, Hughes 
Aircraft Co. of Malibu, Calif., and Northrop Grumman Corp. of 
Baltimore, are providing technical support for a number of the 
initiative's projects but will receive only minimal government 
funding.

     Stanford's contribution to the MURI will be mathematics
professor George Papanicolaou, who will provide his expertise to
several different projects.

     The initiative's third research area -- "sensor fusion and
signal processing" -- will team up Gelenbe, the chairman of 
Duke's electrical engineering department, with Carin, Collins and 
other Duke faculty, as well as investigators at Ohio State.

     Sensor fusion involves merging information from various 
sensors in an "intelligible" way. "You have these different 
pieces of information coming in," Gelenbe said. "You have to 
combine that sensing information and then make intelligent 
decisions."

     The researchers also will develop methods to decide the 
safest and most effective locations to place the humans or robots 
deploying the high tech sensors in the field.

     "You can develop some of these decisions ahead of time," 
Gelenbe added. "But some strategies will have to be designed for  
real time' implementation, in the sense that the commander of a 
demining unit will have to make decisions shortly before -- or 
even during -- deployment."

     Gelenbe will work closely with Duke computer science 
professor John Reif, and with experimental psychology professor 
John Staddon and associate professor Nestor Schmajuk, to study 
optimal ways to deploy sensors and other mine detectors in the 
field.

     To sift through the sensor data, Gelenbe will use neural
networks, computer systems that emulate how networks of nerve 
cells process information. More specifically, he will employ a 
"recurrent random neural network" model developed at Duke to 
tackle difficult problems in data interpretation.

     He also will use a novel genetic algorithm of his own 
invention that can generate more precise answers quickly. Genetic 
algorithms are special mathematical tools that "evolve" the best 
solutions to problems by weeding out "unfit" ones.

     Research to develop signal-processing systems for mine
detection will involve using computers and mathematical models to
determine whether a sensor's often-abstract input really does 
reveal a land mine's presence.

     "We're also modeling the uncertainty, and I think that's
something that is very novel," said Collins. "If you can somehow
characterize the uncertainty about the model, then you can 
actually do a much better job."

     Carin said "the real challenge is to take all that data and 
try to make a decision. It's analogous to how humans use our 
hearing, smell, taste and touch. We don't just use one sense." 

     The researchers will also develop methods to decide when not 
to use a given technology. "Radar has been used for decades to 
try to find mines," Carin added. "It actually works very well in 
some scenarios, and very poorly in others. The real challenge is 
to make sure you use radar when it's appropriate. And then when 
it's inappropriate don't even try to use it. Because you're just 
asking for trouble."
                                 ###


[Submitted by: Von Reid-Vargas (ereid@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu)
               
Tue, 8 Oct 1996 15:44:56 -0400]
All documents are the responsibility of their originator.