Pentagon to fund new ways to detect explosives

Defense Department

DARPA is seeking different approaches to identifying IEDs.

The defense venture wing wants to put money into developing contactless technology that detects explosives embedded in opaque, water-heavy objects such as “mud, meat [and] animal carcasses,” contract databases show.

The slated funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could seed devices to speed up detection and disposal of improvised explosive devices. The new detectors would not need to touch the objects they are testing. “The vision of this program is to develop methods that permit rapid detection of bulk explosives embedded within an opaque medium with high water content,” according to a request for proposals.

The Pentagon backing would help scientists and engineers address the weaknesses of existing methods -- such as biosensors and specific light-foused methods -- in detecting explosives.

DARPA is open to funding research that builds on ultra wideband and thermoacoustic imaging, which hold out promise in cancer detection. Defense wants technologies that cause minimal ionizing radiation exposure, to avoid concerns about ruining soldiers’ bodies.

The program is called Methods for Explosive Detection at Standoff. The call for defense funding opened Tuesday and closes Dec. 18.