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
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;
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 (email@example.com)
Tue, 8 Oct 1996 15:44:56 -0400]
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