DRDO explosives detection kit to get global attention


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Feb 16, 2009
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DRDO explosives detection kit to get global attention

The indigenous explosive detection kit, devised by the High Energy Material Research Lab (HEMRL), was initially designed as an import substitute. But lately it is attracting a fair bit of international attention as well.
Two US-based companies, one Hungarian company and two Indian companies are in the fray to manufacture the kit on a commercial basis.
Through the explosive detection kit, the police can instantly identify the explosive that was used for the detonation in the aftermath of a blast. They just have to take a sample from the scene of the crime and test it against the chemicals given in the kit. The change in colour tells them if the explosive used is RDX, TNT, PETN or any other chemical.
“Many companies have verbally expressed interest in the kit, but three companies have done so in writing,” said A Subhananda Rao, director, HEMRL, without naming the companies. On Wednesday, representatives of the Indian-based companies would visit the lab in Pune to learn about the kit.
According to a scientist at the HEMRL, these companies are more interested in the pocket-sized variety of the kit, that is a one-time use and throw kit. The original kit won the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) technology spin off award from the Prime Minister in 2007.
Earlier, India would import the explosive detection kits at three times the cost. “After a blast, the police would take at least two days to get the confirmation on the explosives used. Using the kit, it can be done instantly. At Rs 5,000 a piece, the low cost of the kit is an added advantage,” said Samir Kumar, assistant director, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), that has tied up with DRDO to identify 20 technologies for commercialisation this year. “HEMRL’s explosive detection kit is one of the 10 technologies we have already selected,” Kumar said.
The HEMRL has received positive feedback from the users themselves. “A policeman once told us how when they had intercepted a truck, reportedly carrying explosives, they found only harmless looking ropes in the luggage compartment. But when the ropes were cut, some powder spilled out, which was tested instantly using the explosive detection kit. The powder was RDX,” said a scientist.
The HEMRL has produced 2,200 kits and sold them to the police, the Army and the Border Service Force. Last Thursday, around 100 policemen from the Maharashtra police force were at HEMRL for a training in the kit usage. “The users of the kit do not need any prior knowledge of chemicals,” added Manish Bharadwaj, a DRDO spokesperson.

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