Science Current Events | Science News |

US Army camera captures explosives in fine detail

June 01, 2016

When the script of Lawrence of Arabia called for wrecking a train, director David Lean found it easiest to go ahead and wreck a train, orchestrating and filming it with expert precision. Similarly, while it's possible to study explosives, sans explosives, new techniques involving high-speed, high-fidelity imaging with optical filtering and signal processing techniques have recently made setting off explosives and capturing the data in real-time a reasonable alternative to developing a new simulation.

"Advances in high speed imaging, especially the recent availability of extremely fast cameras and light sources -- (those) approaching hundreds of kHz illumination and imaging rates at near megapixel image sizes -- have brought experimental imaging closer to the resolution achievable with simulations," said Kevin L. McNesby a Research Chemist at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland.

McNesby and his colleagues at the Army Research Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory report their research this week in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, from AIP Publishing.

The advances in image capturing allow the researchers to lower costs for obtaining information about explosive behavior by capturing multiple variables -- pressure, temperature and chemical species maps -- for each shot, rather than a single point measurement. This allows them to run one explosion, rather than several.

The researchers' method of information gathering involves pyrometry, a technique for estimating temperature of incandescent bodies based upon their spectra of emitted thermal radiation. Their setup, which is specific to the type of explosive being investigated, employs a two-color imaging pyrometer, which consists of two monochrome cameras filtered at 700 nanometers and 900 nanometers, and a full-color single pyrometer that achieves wavelength resolution with a Bayer-type mask covering the sensor chip. For each of their rigs, described in full in the paper, the framing speeds are 20,000-40,000 frames per second, at a resolution of approximately 400 x 500 pixels with an exposure per frame of one to tens of microseconds.

The pyrometers are also able to capture the air shock structure of the detonation event, allowing for simultaneous measurement of temperature and pressure. Information regarding the chemical species is similarly captured via measuring the emission spectrum of each targeted molecule. Their setup allows them to obtain a spatial resolution for a one-kilogram explosive charge down to the one-millimeter scale.

However, these mapping techniques result in wider error bars than those of 'legacy' point measurement techniques -- an issue McNesby and his colleagues hope to improve on. Future work for the researchers will also include installing a full upgrade of their imaging rig, which will result in a tenfold increase in speed at full resolution.


The article, "Quantitative imaging of explosions with high-speed cameras," is authored by K.L. McNesby, B.E. Homan, R.A. Benjamin, V.M. Boyle Sr., J.M. Densmore and M.M. Biss. It appears in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments on May 31, 2016 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4949520) and can be accessed at


Review of Scientific Instruments publishes original research and review articles on instruments in physics, chemistry, and the life sciences. The journal also includes sections on new instruments and new materials. See

American Institute of Physics

Related Explosives Current Events and Explosives News Articles

Light-powered 3-D printer creates terahertz lens
From visible light to radio waves, most people are familiar with the different sections of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Study finds metal foam handles heat better than steel
A new study from North Carolina State University researchers finds that novel light-weight composite metal foams (CMFs) are significantly more effective at insulating against high heat than the conventional base metals and alloys that they're made of, such as steel.

New terahertz source could strengthen sensing applications
Current terahertz sources are large, multi-component systems that sometimes require complex vacuum systems, external pump lasers, and even cryogenic cooling. The unwieldy devices are heavy, expensive, and hard to transport, operate, and maintain.

New laser achieves wavelength long sought by laser developers
Researchers at the University of Bath, United Kingdom have created a new kind of laser capable of pulsed and continuous mid-infrared (IR) emission between 3.1 and 3.2 microns, a spectral range that has long presented a major challenge for laser developers.

New laser achieves wavelength long sought by laser developers
Researchers at the University of Bath, United Kingdom have created a new kind of laser capable of pulsed and continuous mid-infrared (IR) emission between 3.1 and 3.2 microns, a spectral range that has long presented a major challenge for laser developers.

Russian scientists blow up ice to test their theories
What is the right and safe method to blow up ice on rivers, if a week ago the air temperature was about zero? How to plant explosives, in conditions when spring ice will not melt and it is low temperature?

Imaged 'jets' reveal cerium's post-shock inner strength
Recent synchrotron advances and the development of dynamic compression platforms have created the ability to investigate extreme states of matter on short timescales at X-ray beamlines using shock waves generated by impact systems.

Toward a faster, more efficient way to sniff out explosives
Explosives detection is important for ensuring the safety of public spaces, transportation and water systems, but it can be challenging to carry out. Now scientists report in the journal ACS Nano a new step toward a more efficient monitoring method that uses quantum dots to quickly sniff out and identify five dangerous compounds, including the powerful explosive hidden in 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid's footwear.

Laser ablation boosts terahertz emission
From almost instantaneous wireless transfer of huge amounts of data and easy detection of explosives, weapons, or harmful gases, to safe 3-D medical imaging and new advances in spectroscopy --technologies based on terahertz (THz) radiation, the electro-magnetic band with wavelengths from 0.1 to 1 mm, can transform science fiction into reality.

Portable ultra-broadband lasers could be key to next-generation sensors
The invisible chemicals around and within us can tell many complicated stories. By sensing them, security agents can uncover explosive threats.
More Explosives Current Events and Explosives News Articles

The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives

The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives
by Tenney L. Davis (Author)

The present volume contains in one binding the whole contents of Volume I, first published in May, 1941, and the whole contents of Volume II which was published in March, 1943. The book was primarily for chemists. The writing of it was commenced in order that a textbook might be available for the use of students in the course in powder and explosives which the author gave for about twenty years (nearly every year since the first World War) to fourth-year and graduate students of chemistry and of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.... The aim of the book has been too described as clearly and interestingly as possible and as fully as seemed profitable the modes of behavior, both physical and chemical, of explosive substances, whether these modes find practical...

U.S. Army Explosives and Demolitions Handbook (US Army Survival)

U.S. Army Explosives and Demolitions Handbook (US Army Survival)
by Army (Author)

Military demolitions are the destruction by fire, water, explosive, and mechanical means of areas, structures, facilities, or materials to accomplish a military objective. The U.S. Army Explosives and Demolitions Handbook is a guide to the use of explosives in the destruction of military obstacles from the Department of the U.S. Army. This guide includes information on types, characteristics, and uses of explosives and auxiliary equipment; preparation, placement, and firing of charges; safety precautions; handling, transportation, and storage of explosives; deliberate and hasty demolition methods; and much more.

Applicable to nuclear and nonnuclear warfare, and having offensive and defensive uses, the knowledge one will come away with from reading this handbook is...

Explosives Engineering

Explosives Engineering
by Paul Cooper (Author)

This graduate text, and Cooper's companion introductory text ('Introduction to the Technology of Explosives'), serve the same markets as the successful explosives reference by Meyer, now in its 4th edition. VCH also published the International Journal of Propellants, Explosives, and Pyrotechnics. The resulting package would give VCH the major presence in the field.
This text presents the basic technologies used in the engineering of explosives and explosive systems, i.e., chemistry, burning, detonation, shock waves, initiation theories, scaling. The book is written for upper-division undergraduate or graduate-level scientists and engineers, and assumes a good grasp of basic physics, chemistry, mechanics and mathematic through calculus. It is based on lecture notes used for graduate...

Home Workshop Explosives, Second Edition

Home Workshop Explosives, Second Edition
by Uncle Fester (Author)

This book earns it's name! Over the course of 172 pages, I have taken all the great material in the first ed, and added to it a series of recipes and procedures which are very low profile and stunningly effective.
This treasure trove of information features the Hardware Store Nitro recipe, fuel/air explosives, butt kicking ammonium nitrate formulations, nitromethane mixtures and a vastly improved detonator section.
The fun doesn't stop there either. Read all about the construction of remote control cruise missiles and RC torpedoes. Claymore mines and air cannons add spice to the stew. Then top it off with my commentary on the easiest way to obtain all the materials one would need.
I've read all the books on the topic of explosives, from tiny paperbacks to 600 page volumes...

U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook

U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook
by Department of the Army (Author)

You don't need to be a trained soldier to fully appreciate this edition of the U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook (TM 31-210). Originally created for soldiers in guerilla warfare situations, this handbook demonstrates the techniques for constructing weapons that are highly effective in the most harrowing of circumstances. Straightforward and incredibly user-friendly, it provides insightful information and step-by-step instructions on how to assemble weapons and explosives from common and readily available materials. Over 600 illustrations complement elaborate explanations of how to improvise any number of munitions from easily accessible resources. Whether you're a highly trained solider or simply a civilian looking to be prepared, the U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook is an...

Primary Explosives

Primary Explosives
by Robert Matyáš (Author), Jiří Pachman (Author)

This is the first comprehensive overview of this topic. It serves as a single source for information about the properties, preparation, and uses of all relevant primary explosives. The first chapter provides background such as the basics of initiation and differences between requirements on primary explosives used in detonators and igniters. The authors then clarify the influence of physical characteristics on explosive properties, focusing on those properties required for primary explosives. Furthermore, the issue of sensitivity is discussed. All the chapters on particular groups of primary explosives are structured in the same way, including introduction, physical and chemical properties, explosive properties, preparation and documented use. The authors thoroughly verified all data and...

The Anarchist Cookbook

The Anarchist Cookbook
by William Powell (Author)

Perhaps the most notorius How To manual on the market. This is the most asked for book that we know of. Is it any good? Well, it's now in its 29th printing since 1971, has chapters on home preparation of weapons, electronics, drugs, and explosives. Extensively illustrated, 8.5 x 11, 160 pp., softcover.

The Chemistry of Explosives: RSC (RSC Paperbacks)

The Chemistry of Explosives: RSC (RSC Paperbacks)
by Jacqueline Akhavan (Author)

This concise, easy-to-read book outlines the basic principles needed to understand the chemical mechanisms of explosion. Covering detonation, deflagration, initiation, the latest theories on the production of "hotspots", thermochemistry, thermodynamics and kinetics, the text includes detailed formulations and reactions presented with thermochemical calculations to aid understanding. The history, theory and chemical types of explosives are introduced, along with propellants, pyrotechnics and the most up-to-date information on energetic binders for explosive compositions. Covering all aspects of explosive chemistry from history to manufacturing techniques and formulation, The Chemistry of Explosives is a unique text which introduces difficult subjects in a readable manner. Ideal for A-level...

Introduction to the Technology of Explosives

Introduction to the Technology of Explosives
by Paul Cooper (Author), Stanley R. Kurowski (Author)

Introduction to the Technology of Explosives Paul W. Cooper and Stanley R. Kurowski Introduction to the Technology of Explosives is a clear and concise survey of the technologies and physical processes involved in explosive phenomena. The book is intended to provide the worker new to the field with sufficient background to understand problems that may arise and to interact intelligently with specialists in the field. The book covers the fundamentals of the chemistry of explosives; the mechanics of burning; sound, shock, and detonation; initiation and initiators; scaling in design and analysis; and off-the-shelf explosive devices. It provides the basic calculational skills needed to solve simple, first-order engineering design problems, and emphasizes the crucial importance of safety...

The Basics of Explosives: " The Chemistry of Explosive Compounds " (Volume 2)

The Basics of Explosives: " The Chemistry of Explosive Compounds " (Volume 2)
by Edited by Paul F. Kisak (Author)

Explosives are used around the world for both productive purposes such as building hydroelectric dams and mining and destructive purposes, primarily by the military. Explosives are usually divided into two classes those that burn and those that detonate. Detonated explosives typically produce a shock front or shock wave that results from an exothermic chemical reaction. This chemical reaction usually results in a relatively stable compound being exposed to a concentrated source of energy such as a blasting cap or other type of detonation device. The solid explosive will phase shift to a high temperature expanding gas in approximately one-millionth of a second (a nanosecond) with pressures exceeding several million pounds per square inch. For one example we can examine ‘Det...

© 2017