UK firm invents 'landmine proof boots'

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The Independent Online

A British company has developed boots it says can protect the wearer against landmine explosions. The secret is the soles, which absorb rather than try to deflect the impact of the blast - the science used by more conventional blast-proof materials.

A British company has developed boots it says can protect the wearer against landmine explosions. The secret is the soles, which absorb rather than try to deflect the impact of the blast - the science used by more conventional blast-proof materials.

The soles are made from tiny grains of stone coated in resin. As the first shock wave hits the sole the blast enters through thousands of holes. As the blast is squeezed into the chambers, the effect is deflected into different directions and slowed down. After that, the next line of defence is the resin surrounding the stone particles. Under the pressure of the blast the stone is turned spongy, absorbing more of the energy.

Finally, the boots are protected by a layer of hard, resistant material which deflects soil and shrapnel. This is considered vital, because one ofthe biggest causes of foot injuries in such situations are flying fragments.

The boots - developed by the Derby-based AIGIS company - are to feature on this week's edition of the BBC programme Tomorrow's World. The company says the boots could be useful to soldiers and aid workers in countries riddled with landmines. It says it has received a lot of interest from armies.

Nearly one-third of the world's nations are, to some degree, contaminated by landmines and other unexploded ordnance. Among the countries most severely affected are Angola, Cambodia, Mozambique and Afghanistan.

The boots are the latest attempt to resolve the mines problem. Scientists have already developed a device to detect plastic mines by picking up the atomic "signature" of the explosive. Conventional metal-detectors are useless against plastic mines, which contain less than a gram of metal, as even a nail or piece of shrapnel on a former battlefield can cause a false alarm.

The Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC instead concentrated on a technique called nuclear quadrupole resonance, which was originally developed for airport explosives scanners.

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