A metal detector is very nice, particularly when there isn’t a lot of aluminium in the ground. Archaeology cannot do without it. But what I really want now is a holographic radar instrument. Still in the prototype stage, this technology is being developed by Tim Bechtel of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and colleagues, who primarily have land-mine removal in mind. It will image underground metal objects in 3D. Gimme gimme gimme!

And oh, how I hope that my country’s legislators will allow a responsible metal-detector hobby to develop here before holographic radar detectors hit the street.

Via BBC’s Material World. Quentin Cooper rules!

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  1. #1 Jonathan Jarrett
    July 7, 2010

    If it’s using radar, won’t it pick up much more than metal? Or is that just what this one’s aiming at?

    Also, how far are we from being able to do this kind of imaging with ultrasonics? I mean, isn’t this basically a one-man geo-phys unit?

    (I may be a *long way off the mark here*…)

  2. #2 Martin R
    July 7, 2010

    I know only what’s in the radio program. But anyway, here are my answers to your questions:

    If it’s using radar, won’t it pick up much more than metal?

    Yes, I think so. So pebbles will be a problem. But if you combine this with a metal detector, as I believe the mine detector will, then you can turn on imaging once you know there’s a piece of metal in front of you. And imagine being able to X-ray graves in 3D before you start digging them…

    do this kind of imaging with ultrasonics?

    AFAIK, ultrasound would not travel far into the ground, and you would have to keep the detector in tight contact with the dirt.

    isn’t this basically a one-man geo-phys unit?

    No, because a ground-penetrating radar does not image small objects in 3D. It images only large structures by means of repeated parallel tranchees.

  3. #3 Tobias
    July 7, 2010

    The guys at OKM metal detectors (http://www.okmmetaldetectors.com/) in Germany claim their products have 3D capabilities. I’ve never seen an independent field test of one of their machines, though, so I have no idea whether their stuff is up to snuff.

  4. #4 Sandgroper
    July 7, 2010

    I have used ground penetrating radar. It is very good for locating buried pipelines and suchlike because they give a strong clear signal, but it was disappointing for trying to locate things like underground cavities and soil layers.

    But technology keeps advancing, so I would never just write it off.

  5. #5 Birger Johansson
    July 8, 2010

    So, if we put this detector in a Lunar orbiter, we can finally find that black monolith buried under the surface of Tycho?

    And for non-Swedish readers: Martin and others here are not allowed to have metal detectors because looters use them to steal viking-age artefacts, mainly on Gotland. The ban does not work, because looters (like other thiefs) tend to work when there are no witnesses around, so legitimate users suffer while thieves thrive.

  6. #6 Ulf Schneider
    July 14, 2010

    Sensors & Software makes a good SPIDAR system, using multi-array antennas to survey a wide swath of ground, using Ground Penetrating Radar

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    June 30, 2011

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