Detection of explosives


Explosives, in particular landmines have been heavily used as warfare since the end of World War II.  The International Campaign to Ban Landmines ( have estimated the number of landmine affected nations to exceed 80 and annual casualties due to landmines between 15000 and 20000 as of January 2004.  Several countries including Russia, United States, and some Asian countries still produce antipersonnel landmines.  Along with development of landmines in such countries that are becoming more difficult to detect, there is ongoing development in the scientific field of their detection.  Current methods of landmine and explosive detection are:

  • visual detection
  • hand-held detectors (from simple sticks to survey subsurface ordianats to electronic metal detectors)
  • sniffer dogs
  • x-ray devices

All of the methods above have a common critical problem in that they require the operating human being to be close to the landmine or explosive that is to be detected.  Areal surveys have not yet delivered an effective remote sensing method, as landmines can be contained plastic casings that can not be picked up by radar.  Molecular biologists and biotech companies such as Dr Michael Deyholos at the University of Alberta, Dr Robert Burlage at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, Dr C. Neal Stewart, Jr. at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, and Aresa Biodetection have considered use of genetically modified organisms that detect chemicals leaching from the landmines as an alternative to the above mentioned manual survey methods.

This chapter contains a granted US patent owned by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation, which claims a method to detect explosives using a recombinant microorganism.

Similar to the chapter on detection of metal and other toxic compounds, chapter 7 – Biosensing systems contains a patent family with examples of transgenic Arabidopsis thalianaplants that detect explosives and landmines.  (WO 2003/100068: Reporter system for plants by Aresa Biodetection APS).  However, as the patent documents in this family are applications that have claims that are broader in scope than the examples, they are not presented in this chapter.