Using Lasers to Find Land Mines and IEDs

A laser could ionize a distant puff of air and thus safely detect the fumes from buried explosives

10 min read
Using Lasers to Find Land Mines and IEDs

A mine-clearer's work still depends on metal detectors and sniffer dogs, with all the dangers that this entails. Technology may provide a better way to do the job.

Photo: United States Marine Corps

Today we rely on dogs to sniff out hidden explosives. The problem is, you can't debrief a dog, so you can't identify the kind of explosive or even be sure that the animal is smelling explosives rather than packaging material. And who wants to risk the lives of dogs and their handlers? If you had an instrument that could safely identify any explosive at a distance—with the doglike power to detect molecules at concentrations of just one part in billions—you could get around these difficulties.

The problem of land mines is certainly not new, nor is even the problem of hidden homemade bombs, called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), although the latter came to prominence during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now these ghastly devices are proliferating around the world: The number of such bombings has increased from close to zero a decade ago to more than 4 000 per year in Afghanistan alone. It's a concern that will be with us for a long time, and as such it deserves serious efforts to address. Nor is the problem merely one of war and sabotage. Any device capable of sniffing explosives at a distance could also monitor all sorts of peacetime poisons and pollutants—carbon monoxide, mercury vapor, the oxides of nitrogen and of sulfur, and of course carbon dioxide and methane, the principal greenhouse gases.

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Nuclear Energy Brinkmanship in Ukraine

The Zaporizhzhia power plant is a strategically important prize, but war damage could be calamitous

6 min read
Barbed wire in the foreground frames a power plant in the distance across a wide river.

The Ukrainian-held city of Nikopol has been the target of frequent shelling by Russian invaders from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, seen here from Nikopol, across the Dnipro River. Much of the Zaporizhzhia Region has been occupied by Russia since early in the war.

Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images

A battle of nerves and steel is raging at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which Russia captured in March. Russian forces use the Zaporizhzhia plant as a safe haven for troops and equipment, including artillery that is shelling Ukrainian-held territory directly across the Dnipro River. Ukraine is launching a counteroffensive to retake occupied territory, including Zaporizhzhia. And, all the while, each blames the other as explosions rock the nuclear site.

According to a Reuters report today, Russia’s Defense Department may order the plant to shut down, citing shelling damage to the plant’s “back-up support systems.” Yesterday most plant workers were allegedly told not to come to work tomorrow, according to Ukranian intelligence, which warns the Russians may be planning a dangerous “provocation.”

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Nvidia’s CTO on the Future of High-Performance Computing

The company’s Earth-2 supercomputer is taking on climate change

5 min read
portrait of Nvidia’s CTO, Michael Kagan on a gray background

Nvidia’s CTO Michael Kagan is an IEEE senior member.

Nvidia

In 2019 Michael Kagan was leading the development of accelerated networking technologies as chief technology officer at Mellanox Technologies, which he and eight colleagues had founded two decades earlier. Then in April 2020 Nvidia acquired the company for US $7 billion, and Kagan took over as CTO of that tech goliath—his dream job.

Nvidia is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., but Kagan works out of the company’s office in Israel.

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Accelerate Time to Market with Calibre nmLVS Recon Technology: A New Paradigm for Circuit Verification

Improve LVS circuit verification productivity in early-stage SoC integration and reduce time to market

1 min read
Accelerate Time to Market with Calibre nmLVS Recon Technology: A New Paradigm for Circuit Verification

One thing is clear…tapeouts are getting harder, and taking longer. As part of a growing suite of innovative early-stage design verification technologies, the Calibre nmLVS Recon tool enables design teams to rapidly examine dirty and immature designs to find and fix high-impact circuit errors earlier and faster, leading to an overall reduction in tapeout schedules and time to market.

Learn more in this technical paper.