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CSIRO creates underwater bomb-sensor

Reducing the UXB danger

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America’s Sky Research and the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) have teamed up with CSIRO scientists to create a more sensitive detector for unexploded bombs in the ocean.

The problem of unexploded ordinance underwater is bigger than you might realise, with the SERDP estimating that in the US, more than ten million acres (about four million hectares) of sea floor are contaminated.Then there's the fact that as explosives corrode they become more unstable and dangerous, which makes it rather nice to find them before they literally explode.

The Sky Research/CSIRO project uses technology from the world of mineral surveys to look for the magnetic signature of UXO (unexploded ordnance) underwater. Called a “high temperature superconducting tensor gradiometer”, the device provides information on the location and magnetic characteristics of a target.

At the heart of the kit is a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID). CSIRO, working with Sky Research, developed a hexagonal pyramid configuration of SQUIDs. On each face of the pyramid, one SQUID acts as a gradiometer and another as a magnetometer.

The science agency says the device has passed static tests on land, and will shortly be tested at sea.

The design is described here. ®

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