Unexploded bomb defused using the laser: successful field trial at the end of the project

Full success of the last field trial: blown up bomb after defusing with a laser. (Photo: LZH)

The otherwise unpredictable detonator simply popped out after the controlled ignition with the laser. (Photo: LZH)

Deflagration instead of detonation: in the research project DEFLAG, the partners could defuse an unexploded bomb using a laser. (Photo: LZH)

The deflagration attempt on the blast site went according to plan: instead of a large detonation, the chemical detonator popped out of the 500-pound bomb, the shell exploded along the predetermined notch and only a very small part of the explosive exploded. Thus, the end of the joint project of the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH), LASER on Demand GmbH and the Kampfmittelräumdienst Hamburg (KRD) is more than successful. The laser-based approach could provide more security for explosive ordnance disposal technicians in the future.

Laser-based deflagration: field-compatible and automated
The scientists at the LZH developed the process for automated deflagration in the DEFLAG project. In the first step, a notch is inserted into the bomb casing using a solid-state laser with two kilowatts of power. Thereafter, in the second step, the explosive is deflagrated in a controlled way. As the system technology is exposed to strong heat and pressure, the LZH and its spin-off company LASER on Demand GmbH have developed a low-cost, 3D-printed laser processing head with standard optical components. The handling of the ordnance and of the explosives in the field trials as well as the final field trial with the 500-pound bomb were carried out by the staff of the Kampfmittelräumdienst Hamburg.

Next step: Underwater use
These promising results are now the basis for further research projects in order to be able to use the procedure as soon as possible. In addition, the partners want to adapt the process and the system technology for underwater use. For more than 1.5 million tons of World War II ammunition is still suspected in the North and Baltic Seas.

About the project
The DEFLAG project "Safe Deflagration of Duds by Laser Technology" is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the scope of the Federal Administrations "Research for Civil Security 2012-2017" program. The Kampfmittelräumdienst Hamburg is an Associated Partner.

There are three figures and one video for this press release.

Controlled ignition of the explosive with the laser. (Video: LZH)

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Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH)

As an independent, non-profit research institute, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) stands for innovative research, development and consulting. The LZH is supported by the Niedersachsen Ministry of Economic Affairs, Employment, Transport and Digitalisation and is dedicated to the selfless promotion of applied research in the field of photonics and laser technology. Founded in 1986, over 170 employees are now working for the LZH.

The focus of the LZH lies on the fields of optical components and systems, optical production technologies, and biomedical photonics. Interdisciplinary cooperation between natural scientists and mechanical engineers makes innovative approaches to challenges from the most different areas possible: from the development of components for specific laser systems to process developments for the most diverse laser applications, for example for medical technology or lightweight construction in the automotive sector. Eighteen spin off companies have emerged from the LZH up to now. Thus, the LZH has created a strong transfer between fundamental science, application oriented research, and industry.