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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency


Ex-situ, near-real-time exPlosive compound deTection in seawater

The XploTaker mounted below a mini-Niskin rosette (@GEOMAR)

Many coastal European waters are contaminated with unexploded and intentionally dumped ordnance (UXO) from the two World Wars. These relic munitions on the seafloor are a major challenge for both offshore resource development and environmental protection as well as a real threat for aquaculture, shipping and tourism.

The ExPloTect project is developing advanced technology for detection of munition-related chemicals in water.

Traditionally, detection of UXO is based on geophysical techniques, which have been successful in mapping local distribution of munitions on the seafloor but remain unable to universally identify them. By detecting the presence of specific chemicals in the water, the ExPloTect innovative technology will enhance both detection probability and target characterization.     

The ExPloTect project has developed a sea-going prototype device designed to take water samples (XploTaker) and process them in near real-time (Xplotector) in order to detect explosive compounds such as TNT or chemical warfare agents at environmentally-relevant levels. The Xplotector will be used to map the distribution of chemical plumes released from underwater munitions on regional, local, and single object scales.

This system represents a major innovation. Currently available chemical detection methods are strictly reliant on sample processing and analysis in land-based laboratories leading to a significant time delay between the surveying and the mapping. With Xplotector, that delay is reduced as samples are being treated on board. Therefore chemical mapping can be used to support the seabed survey as it progresses.

ExPloTect works in close cooperation with BASTA, another EMFF co-funded project in the field of UXO.

Watch the Euronews episode “The ticking environmental time bombs lying on Europe's seafloor’’, featuring both of them.

Check out also the Kiel Munition Week event website for additional information and presentations on the subject.