Grad student researches improvised explosive devices by making his own

Jul 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Phillip Mulligan is trying to make improvised explosive devices more powerful with the idea of eventually making them less deadly.

A graduate student at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Mulligan is researching IEDs in order to gain knowledge about ways to improve blast-resistant armor.

"We are trying to create the best device we can, so we can learn how to develop the best armor possible," Mulligan says.

Missouri S&T offers the only explosives engineering minor in the country, and the university is in the process of getting approval for a master's degree in the field.

Out at a small quarry on campus property, Mulligan is holding a box full of IEDs that he made. For security reasons, he won't let anyone take photos of the small bombs or video them, but he's happy to talk about his research.

Mulligan's IEDs are made of PVC, copper and, of course, explosives. When detonated, the copper plate explodes into shrapnel that flies everywhere. The main slug, though, travels at 6,000 feet per second in a pre-determined direction.

The objective here is to shoot the main slug at an 1,800-pound, three-inch-thick sheet of steel that Mulligan has placed 20 feet away from the IED.

By way of demonstration, Mulligan ties one of his IEDs to three wires that suspend it in the air in front of the target. Then he instructs onlookers to take cover with him behind a protective barrier about 200 feet away. Everybody is wearing safety helmets and ear plugs.

Mulligan shouts "Fire in the hole!" three times. And then a terrifying explosion occurs. Those behind the barricade wait for tiny pieces of hot copper to stop raining from the sky before returning to the blast site.

The IED is gone; there's nothing left of it. The copper shrapnel on the ground around the site is larger than the small pieces that were falling from the sky near the shelter. "This is something we want to study," Mulligan says. "How big is the shrapnel and why? We need to see how it behaves."

But Mulligan is most interested in the sheet of steel, which now features an ugly indention the size of a fist. "This would have cut a person in half," he says.

As part of the research, Mulligan is using high-speed cameras to capture the explosions. One of the cameras, which is protected by a panel of special glass, shoots 10,000 frames per second. The images can be used to determine the speed and behavior of projectiles.

Mulligan re-states that the ultimate goal is to develop new lightweight armor that can protect against powerful IEDs. But, first, he needs to know just how powerful the little bombs can be and what kind of damage they can do. And that's why he's making his own.

Mulligan's research advisor is Dr. Jason Baird, an explosives expert who is an associate professor of mining engineering at Missouri S&T.

"We are trying to perfect our version of the explosive device," Mulligan says.

Source: Missouri University of Science and Technology (news : web)

Explore further: Weighing gas with sound and microwaves

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists report thyroid cancer discovery

Nov 15, 2006

Canadian scientists say the discovery of a mutated protein in cells linked with thyroid cancer may lead to the development of drugs to fight such cancers.

Recommended for you

Weighing gas with sound and microwaves

13 hours ago

NIST scientists have developed a novel method to rapidly and accurately calibrate gas flow meters, such as those used to measure natural gas flowing in pipelines, by applying a fundamental physical principle: ...

Undersea pipes "shoulder" anchoring duties

14 hours ago

Research off the north-west coast shows undersea pipelines tend to bury themselves in the seabed quicker than expected after they are deployed, resulting in potential cost savings for the petroleum industry.

Navy wants to increase use of sonar-emitting buoys

Jan 25, 2015

The U.S. Navy is seeking permits to expand sonar and other training exercises off the Pacific Coast, a proposal raising concerns from animal advocates who say that more sonar-emitting buoys would harm whales ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mattytheory
not rated yet Jul 29, 2009
He gets to play with explosives AND his name is Mulligan??

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.