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Detection of Anti-Personnel Landmines using Neutrons and Gamma Rays

Andy Buffler
Physics Department University of Cape Town

some landmine statistics . . . > 60M abandoned in > 70 countries (mainly small (< 300 g) plastic APM) > 25k civilians killed annually > 25k maimed annually (mostly women and children) centuries will be required to deal with this problem unless the technology is improved greatly . . .

some good news too . . . the Ottawa treaty (1989) . . . . aims to stop proliferation of landmines more resources are now being directed towards developing methods for the detection and removal of landmines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) good research communication and regular international conferences

Some typical landmines and UXO anti-personnel (APM) anti-tank (ATM)

Typical masses: ~ 5 kg (ATM); < 300 g (APM). Plastic casing. Metal content often < 10 g.

Detection (or destruction) of landmines A) Established methods (in use already) Mechanical methods (flails and rollers to smash or detonate) Metal detection (by electromagnetic induction) EMI Ground-penetrating radar (recently introduced) GPR Sniffer dogs Probing sticks Note: all are methods developed primarily for military use sensitivity of EMI sensors to metallic debris (eg shrapnel) can slow down demining operations a second (confirmation) sensor of another type is usually needed to discriminate against metal debris when EMI is 5 used as the primary (sweep) sensor.

B) Some new (emerging) methods Infra-red X-ray back-scatter Nuclear quadrupole resonance Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy Smart prodders Acoustic sensors Artificial nose Rats, bees, elephants, . . . Neutrons and gammas


why neutrons and gammas ? good penetration into the soil capability to identify elements via nuclear interactions

Differences between military and humanitarian demining Military Objective . . . . . . minefield breaching Execution time . . minimum Resources . . . . . . large Communication . . secretive Deep APM . . . . . . unimportant Removal efficiency > 90% Casualty rate . . . . < 10% Humanitarian complete clearing whatever it takes small free must be cleared > 99.6% Nil

Established methods (A) meet the military requirements. Humanitarian demining will probably require a multisensor system incorporating one of the A-methods as the primary 9 sensor and several confirmation sensors (A or B).

SCHIEBEL ATMID (All Terrain Mine Detector)

a typical portable (hand-held) metal detector.


The IAEA Coordinated Research Project on Nuclear techniques to aid humanitarian demining (see IAEA Bulletin, 43/2/2001) with participants from 18 countries Australia Austria Croatia Egypt Hungary Italy Netherlands Russia Slovenia South Africa UK USA

Canada Germany Japan Slovakia Sweden Vietnam


New methods for landmine detection based on nuclear technology are being investigated by means of: computer simulations; laboratory experiments; and field tests. the investigations include consideration of factors such as different soil types, environments and water content.


methods under study include . . neutron-induced gamma emission neutron moderation neutron and gamma attenuation fast neutron backscattering gamma backscattering gamma-gamma coincidence imaging some examples ...

Neutron-induced gammas (to detect explosives) (studied by groups in 8 countries) prompt . . . . . . . . . . . . (n,n), (n,x) . . . . thermalization-delayed (n,) neutron activation . . . . A(n,x)B C + (ns) (s) (ms)

Different chemical elements are identified by means of their characteristic -spectra. Explosives are then identified from elemental concentration ratios (H:C:N:O). Example 1: PELAN - Pulsed ELemental Analysis using Neutrons (University of Western Kentucky and SAIC, USA)



d-T neutron generator (14 MeV n)

Gamma spectrometer (BGO 76 mm diam x 76 mm)



Pulsed neutron generator Gamma rays




PELAN duty cycle

Neutron Flux

Fast Neutrons Thermal Neutrons

10-15 S

80-100 S


Reaction Gammas Elements

(n,n), (n,p) .. Prompt C, O, ..

(n, ) (n, ), (n,p) .. Prompt Delayed H, S, Cl, Fe, N .. O, Na, Al, Si, P

Pulse height spectra from the BGO detector of PELAN

[prompt window (15 s)]
478 keV, B

[delayed window (100 s)]

478 keV, B

844 keV, Al 844 keV, Al 2223 keV, H 2223 keV, H 4438 keV, C 6129 keV, O

6129 keV, O 7638 keV, Fe

Spectra are unfolded to determine element ratios




August 2003 Preliminary PELAN results on AT mines

Probability of Detection : 97% Probability of False Alarm : 10%


Neutrons-in gammas-out
Example 2: Nanosecond Neutron Analysis (NNA) (V G Khlopin Radium Institute, St Petersburg, Russia) incorporates neutron tagging by the associated particle technique using the reaction 3H(d,n)4He a dual-sensor system has been developed with sweep sensor . . GPR confirmation sensor . . . NNA

LOCALIZATION SENSOR Modulated Continuous-Wave Radar

Determines size, shape, and dielectric characteristics of objects hidden in soil, concrete etc.

LOCALIZATION SENSOR Test measurements in strongly absorbing medium Teflon cylinder ( 7 cm 4 cm) placed under 4 cm layer of sand (humidity 10% by weight)

Electrical length [cm]

Surface of sand

7 cm

4 cm


Shift along the scanning line [cm]

IDENTIFICATION SENSOR Prototype device based on DT neutron generator with built-in nine-segment -detector

Nine-segment detector of alphaparticles built into the neutron generator

Prototype of the NNA device for detection of hidden hazardous objects based on a portable neutron generator


Experimental results for Dummy Land Mine (DLM 2.3) and calculated response functions to carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. DLM2.3 was under 1cm layer of dry sand.
experimental spectrum of DLM2.3 experimental background contribution of carbon contribution of oxygen contribution of nitrogen best approximation

Count rate [ / (sec 100keV)]

0.12 0.11 0.10 0.09 0.08 0.07 0.06 0.05 0.04 0.03 0.02 0.01
C/O C/N Experimental 1.5 0.2 5.6 1.7 Actual 1.16 4.9

Distance []

2 0 -2 3 4 5 6 7

E [MeV]


Gamma-ray Imaging

James Tickner et al. CSIRO Minerals A gamma-ray camera that takes 3D images of objects that can only be viewed from one side.
Primary detector e+ source Secondary detector

MINE 10 cm 27

PACSI Simulation results

Simulation of AP mine buried 100 mm deep in soil Horizontal slice through centre of mine

Landmine detection via neutron moderation

(based on detection of a hydrogen anomaly) (under study by groups in 10 countries) some of the devices developed are . . DUNBLAD (Netherlands) DIAMINE (Italy & Croatia) NO-NAME-YET (Hungary) HYDAD (South Africa) Example: HYDAD landmine detectors (UCT) Frank Brooks and Andy Buffler

HYdrogen Density Anomaly Detection Why a hydrogen signature? H in some explosives and plastics . . . PETN RDX TNT C-4 Nylon Acrylic Polyethylene

. 0

. 20

. 40

. 60

. 80

atom percent H

HYDAD-H (hand-held system)

Detector (3He or 10BF3 proportional counter) DLM (100 g TNT in 100 g acrylic cylinder) AmBe or 252Cf source d


The detector is insensitive to fast neutrons and gammas emitted by the source but responds efficiently to the thermal and epithermal neutrons that result from n-p scattering in DLM.

Works well for d < 10 cm in dry sand. Not suitable for use on very wet sand.


HYDAD-H prototype


HYDAD-H prototype
ready for hand-held operation . . . with batteries, power supplies & electronics attached to the belt fastened around the operators waist


HYDAD-H signals




Counts per second


Beeps per second

-5 0 5 10 15

10 -15 -10

0.1 -15 -10




x (cm)

x (cm)

HYDAD movies : see www.phy.uct.ac.za/hydad




Vehicle-mounted HYDAD system for deep APM


The empty pipe is driven into the ground at each point where the primary sensor showed a positive response. The source and detector are brought into position after this is done. Count rate is measured as f(r, z, ). is the angle of rotation of the detector about the pipe.

Detector DLM2 d

Pipe Source

Sand a



Neutron and gamma attenuation method

the HYRAD detector . . . (HYdrogen RADiography) senses the hydrogen content of APM by means of neutron and gamma-ray transmission radiography similar to the neutron-gamma transmission technique neugat, of Bartle et al. and others !


S - neutron and gamma source D - NE213 detector (with PSD) M - landmine S and D are mechanically coupled The count rates for n and are given by:
S furrows


Nn = n Non exp(-n r) N = No exp(- r)


vertical section

Their ratio is R = Nn / N = n Non / No exp {( -n)r} If = n (for sand) then R is independent of r and of density variations in the sand. R may change if an object M displaces sand between S and D. R decreases if M is a 40 landmine and increases if M is a high-Z object.

A test of HYRAD
The source and 3 detectors are scanned synchronously along x to locate maxima & minima in R. minima maxima
DLM2 d x

3 x NE213

Lead disc


Neutron- and gamma-based methods for landmine detection have now reached a level of development at which they are ready for field testing. A convincing success in field tests will be required in order for detectors of this type to be considered as components of future multisensor mine detection systems.