A team of researchers in the Department of Informatics, led by Prof. Kaspar Althoefer, Dr Panagiotis Kosmas and Dr Jamie Barras, has been awarded £321,000 by Find a Better Way, a charity founded by Sir Bobby Charlton to tackle the problem of buried landmines. The award, presented to the King’s team by Sir Bobby at a gala dinner in London on 28 November 2013, will fund AQUAREOS, a project to develop a radiofrequency-based sensor for explosives for use as a confirmation sensor in the detection of buried landmines for humanitarian demining. The AQUAREOS team was one of only two awardees on the night, the second being a joint Cranfield University-UCL team for their project DETERMINE. A podcast can be found here.
Prof. Althoefer comments, “Landmines impose devastating societal and economic consequences on the affected communities such as the loss of many children, the inability of farming communities to grow crops on mine-infested land, and the immense health costs for the treatment and recovery of injured victims. The significance of this problem has led to a great amount of academic, governmental, and industrial research for over 60 years, and significant progress has been made in the last decades as documented in various review monographs. The UK has been a very active player in this research, as evidenced for example by the activities funded by the “Find A Better Way” (FABW) charity organisation.”
Dr Kosmas adds, “The key novelty of this project is the transfer of expertise in advanced signal processing and detection methods from other technologies to quadrupole resonance (QR), which is a spectroscopic technique that uses harmless radio-waves to study the chemical structure of solid materials. For this project for FABW, we propose to build on our experience of producing a QR system-in-a-suitcase for medicines authentication (a project led by Prof Althoefer and Dr Barras), by taking our tried-and-tested laboratory set-up and turning it into a mobile platform – the AQUAREOS (Advanced Quadrupole Resonance Explosives Ordnance Sensor) platform – capable of being used by demining teams in a variety of environments as a confirmation sensor as part of their mine clearance efforts.”
“The project centres on the fact that QR signals from the explosive content of the mine act as a chemical signature that can confirm that a suspect object in the ground is or is not a buried mine,” says Dr Barras. “We can use radio-waves to read these chemical signatures. We do this by sending out radio-waves in bursts and between the bursts we listen for the signals coming back from the explosives at frequencies that are specific to this or that explosive.”
After the presentation, the AQUAREOS team expressed their gratitude to Find A Better Way for the award, which they have dedicated to the memory of Prof. John A S Smith, the founder and long-time leader of the King’s College QR group, who passed away in April 2013.