Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), shoulder-mounted weapons and small arms can all have devastating effects to life and property within current conflict zones. This new research will attempt to improve vehicle armour to ensure the safety of personnel.
Jeremy Anderson and colleagues Sam Parry and Tim Joyner have designed a Field Flash X-Ray facility based on Jeremy’s experience while on a Defence Science Fellowship at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
Along with contractors John Williams and Shaun Lavelle, the team recently built and tested the temporary flash X-ray facility at the Proof and Experimental Establishment, Port Wakefield, South Australia.
While X-ray technology has been surpassed by video in many respects, the older technique is proving useful to see exactly what is happening behind the plume of debris caused by an explosion.
Flash x-ray better than video
“In order to develop armour it is necessary to see firstly what hit the armour, and secondly what the armour did to the things that hit it,” says Jeremy.
“That’s where the flash X-ray comes into it. It is possible to use flash X-ray to take radiographs of the particles before they hit the targets and also when they exit on the other side. This is not possible with high-speed video because of the large amount of debris that is produced, obscuring the particles. With flash X-ray it is possible to look through the debris.”
“Our gear produces X-rays over a 30 nanosecond (a millionth of a millisecond) exposure. This means that you can take pictures of things moving really, really fast,” Jeremy says.
The equipment is triggered with microsecond accuracy by calculating time using a tool that Jeremy developed while at U.S Army Research Laboratory. The X-ray tubes are aligned to project two images onto a radiograph so that the velocity of the particles can be calculated.
Scientists have had flash X-ray in the lab for many years but Jeremy says that this is the first time it is available out in the field for DSTO.
“We are very restricted in the laboratory because of the limited space. In the field we have much more space and can fire many different weapons.
“The new facility has improvements on the U.S Army Research Laboratory version.
“Because we have more space we can dynamically fire shoulder-launched weapons and small arms in addition to the roadside Improvised Explosive Devices. Our flash X-ray system is unique. I believe it to be the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. At best, there would only be several like it in the world.”
The research will feed into producing better armour solutions for the Australian Army, for both short and long-term capability.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is part of Australia’s Department of Defence. DSTO’s role is to ensure the expert, impartial and innovative application of science and technology to the defence of Australia and its national interests.