Dolphin Sonar Can Help to Uncover Roadside Bombs and IEDs

By Gerald Lynch on at

Some say that swimming with dolphins can have healing properties, but the super-smart aquatic mammals may have a far more tangible gift to bestow upon mankind. A team of British researchers have been inspired by the dolphin's sonar to create a remarkably accurate and cheap to produce bomb sensor.

The twin inverted pulse radar (TWIPR) uses two pulses to distinguish between standard metallic debris and dangerous explosive-linked electronics, in a similar way to how dolphins send out signals in pairs to help pinpoint their prey. The second pulse sent out by the TWIPR has a reverse polarity to the first, and if it hits an electronic device the pulse turns into a strong positive signal. With it, the team led by Professor Tim Leighton of the University of Southampton, and scientists from University College, London, can pick up signals from dangerous improvised explosives 100,000 times more powerfully than surrounding metallic clutter.

The device measures just 2cm in size, and can be put together for less than £1, making it a very promising alternative to less accurate, more expensive systems. And the TWIPR's application could potentially reach far further than just warzones -- it's a system that could be invaluable for tracking people trapped in earthquake rubble or under the snow of an avalanche, provided the person has an electronic device like a mobile phone with them. It may be time to raise a glass to old Flipper. [BBC]

Image Credit: Smiling dolphin from