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National Security Directorate

Initiative for Explosives Detection

Jeep Explosion

The illicit use of explosives has become a daily event in the modern world. For terrorist organizations and insurgents, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) has become a weapon of choice. These devices are being used to kill or harm civilians and military personnel as well as destroy vital infrastructure and assets. Because they can take different forms and be delivered to their targets in a variety of ways, these devices are proving difficult to defeat.

Advances in technology for the detection of explosives, explosive devices, or components of such devices can improve our ability to counter their use and resulting impacts. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is addressing this crucial need by investing in the Initiative for Explosives Detection, a Laboratory-wide effort to develop science-based solutions that can be effectively deployed and used in a variety of real-world settings.

Explosives detection research crosses boundaries of physics, chemistry, materials and electronics. PNNL's science-based, computational and sociological capabilities reach across a strong, multidisciplinary staff and infrastructure, providing tangible solutions through the application of a range of techniques, including:

  • Novel materials for collection, preconcentration and detection
  • Trace chemical analysis instrumentation
  • Laser-based measurement methods
  • High-frequency interrogation
  • X-ray and neutron methods
  • Electronics and systems development
  • Statistical data analysis, information visualization and data fusion.

Projects within the Initiative for Explosive Detection are currently selected to address science and technology development within four major focus areas and systems integration for deployment:



Video Highlight

YouTube: Finding Hidden Explosives

PNNL physicist Erin Miller, Ph.D., talks about how phased contrast X-ray imaging could be used for better explosives detection.

Watch this video on YouTube

More about IED

Initiative for Explosives Detection brochure