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Explosives Detection, Testing, Ballistics, and Armor Development Programs

Locations: National Security Test Range, Trace Explosives Detection Facility, Bulk Explosives Detection Facility, Specific Manufacturing Capability

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has extensive expertise and facilities that support the development, testing, and evaluation of technologies for detecting explosives, for modeling, predicting, and measuring blast and ballistic effects, and for designing materials and structures to protect against blast and ballistic threats. The laboratory’s focus in these areas began more than 20 years ago, when the lab began manufacturing the heavy armor for the M1 Abrams tank. INL’s heritage in armor development and testing continues with ongoing production supporting the Abrams program, and advanced research, development and prototyping of lightweight higher-performance armor, including transparent armor and cladding materials for protecting buildings and critical infrastructure. The INL explosives program encompasses several areas of research, including detection of trace and bulk explosives, mine/minefield detection, and detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The INL explosives detection team currently works with several organizations, government agencies and industrial partners to not only develop new technologies but test and analyze systems already in use.

Explosives Detection - INL researchers design, develop and test sensors that can detect explosives for industry and federal agencies like the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, as well as international organizations and private industry. INL has developed advanced mass spectrometry and ion mass spectrometry modeling software that are in use worldwide and which have supported the development of novel sensor concepts for detecting trace explosives. The team also routinely conducts operational tests and validation of systems being used by the TSA for airport security. In addition, INL has supported the U.S. Army by evaluating the handheld trace detection systems that are being used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify potential explosive threats. INL also has tested the handheld devices used at airports to detect trace explosives on luggage, shoes, and on personnel. The team designed and built a neutron-based system for detecting bulk explosives concealed in munitions and in vehicles.  The munitions inspection system, named the Portable Isotopic Neutron System (PINS) has been deployed worldwide.  A prototype neutron-based vehicle bomb inspection system has been delivered to the U.S. Air Force.

Explosive Effects - Besides designing sensors, INL researchers also study the impact and effects explosives will have on vehicles, buildings and other infrastructure. The team tries to predict the damage that different devices will cause when used at various angles or attack scenarios. It runs a series of test to assess the shockwaves caused by blasts, fragment speed and other characteristics. The goal is to gather as much information as possible so agencies and industries can better protect the nation's infrastructure. The group's expertise includes Blast and Ballistic Modeling & Simulation that include CTH, DYNA, EPIC, ZEUS, and ALEGRA codes.

Explosive Effects Mitigation (Survivability) - INL's survivability program focuses on rapid development, testing and prototype qualification of integrated ballistic and blast survivability solutions. INL projects have included developing friction-stir alloying and roll-bonding armor, and integrated use of high-performance polymers that provide enhanced protection for the nation’s military. INL's multidisciplinary team of experts provides program management, design, system analysis, engineering and prototype manufacturing skills necessary to achieve cutting-edge survivability solutions and rapid field implementation. Recent accomplishments include designing and building transparent armor for military applications, and designing, modeling and testing novel armor solutions against explosively formed penetrator (EFP) threats for such applications as protecting weapons storage vaults and vehicle survivability. INL has a comprehensive understanding of materials behavior in the aggressive and harsh environments induced by ballistic and blast events.  For more than half a century, the INL has applied knowledge and background in materials engineering and characterization to develop innovative technologies, including diverse sensors, defense materials, nuclear fuels with improved nonproliferation characteristics, and light-armor development and manufacturing processes.

Page Contact Information:

Department of energy

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
DOE-Idaho Office