The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

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.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The EV Transition Explained: Charger Infrastructure

How many, where, and who pays?

7 min read
Illuminated electric vehicle charging stations at night in Monterey Park, California.

Electric vehicle charging stations in Monterey Park, California.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The ability to conveniently charge an EV away from home is a top concern for many EV owners. A 2022 survey of EV owners by Forbes indicates that 62 percent of respondents are so anxious about their EV range that travel plans have been affected. While “range anxiety” may be overblown, the need for an extensive and reliable external charging infrastructure is not.

Infrastructure terminology can itself be confusing. For clarity, bear in mind that a charging station is a specific physical location which has one or more charging posts. A charging post itself may have one or more ports, where each port can charge a single EV. Each post may have multiple types of service connectors to support different EV charging connector standards. And a port may supply varying power levels.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Video Friday: Humanoid Soccer

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
Humans and human-size humanoid robots stand together on an indoor soccer field at the beginning of a game

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
ICRA 2023: 29 May–2 June 2023, LONDON

Enjoy today’s videos!

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Fourth Generation Digitizers With Easy-to-Use API

Learn about the latest generation high-performance data acquisition boards from Teledyne

1 min read

In this webinar, we explain the design principles and operation of our fourth-generation digitizers with a focus on the application programming interface (API).

Register now for this free webinar!

Keep Reading ↓Show less