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Optical technologies for the identification of explosives

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Total project cost
€3 289 855
EU Contribution
€2 487 556
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Link to CORDIS
Background & Policy context

Terrorism is a real and growing threat to Europe and the world, and more than 60% of the terrorist attacks are carried out by the use of Improvised Explosive Devices. Security forces demand new tools to fight against this threat and the industry is making a big effort in the last few years to provide such tools.

Every year a number of new products to detect and identify concealed explosives reach the market but up to the moment these new systems do not meet the full operational capabilities demanded by the end users. Probably the most demanded by the end users is the capability for standoff detection and identification of explosives, in order to be able to anticipate the threat from a safe distance and to avoid entering into the lethality area of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

Such standoff detection capability is also very demanded for intelligence operations to identify materials, people or places involved in the preparation and transportation of explosives.


In order to meet the end user’s needs, OPTIX will develop of a transportable system for the standoff detection and identification of explosives in real scenarios at distances of around 20 m (sensor to target), using alternative or simultaneous analysis of three different complementary optical technologies (LIBS, RAMAN, IR) and with the following characteristics:

  • Standoff distance of at least 20 m.
  • Detection of explosives in bulk, trace amounts and even liquids in certain conditions.
  • Very fast detection and identification of explosives
  • Very high specificity for the identification of explosives.
  • Large operational availability of the system.
  • Fully automated decision system (no operator dependence).

In order to be successful, end user’s involvement in OPTIX is essential in the system specifications and validation, and in this sense the OPTIX consortium has put a special effort in including end users in those parts of the project where their contribution is relevant.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission
Type of funding
Public (EU)


Upping the ante on bomb detection

Detecting explosives is set to become easier, thanks to highly sophisticated and sensitive laser-based technology. This will help governments combat the threat of terrorism and save lives.
Our rapidly globalising world is offering a number of opportunities for exchange and growth, but also threats such as increased terrorism. Over 60 % of terrorist attacks employ improvised explosive devices (IEDs), prompting a need for more security tools to detect this threat. This was the aim of the EU-funded project 'Optical technologies for the identification of explosives' (OPTIX) .

To achieve its aims, the project gathered three small and medium enterprises, and universities, research organisations and end users who collaborated together in order to develop the technology. The system is based on laser technology — specifically, Raman spectroscopy and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) — leading to a transportable system that effectively detects explosives at a distance. Indeed, the novel device was developed to detect IEDs from as far away as 20 metres, even when the explosives are hidden inside opaque containers.

The technique works on a combination of compact high-energy laser and ultra-sensitive spectrometry that can work simultaneously or separately. The results are then analysed through a chemometrics module and through special software to determine for enhanced accuracy.

Key advantages include rapid detection and identification of explosives, very high reliability, very low false alarms and other advanced capabilities. A short deployment time, adaptability to different environmental conditions, and advanced automation possibilities without the need of skilled operators are also important advantages.

In effect, the new system enables end users not only to identify explosives from a safe distance but to understand the threat they are faced with and vacate the appropriate area. From preventive searches in buildings to vehicle checkpoints, this improved technology promises to advance security considerably, potentially saving lives and material goods. If the results from the OPTIX project are properly exploited and commercialised, the world could become a safer place.


Lead Organisation
Indra Sistemas
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Technology Theme
Infrastructure management
Decision-Support-System for proactive remedial measures
Development phase
Demonstration/prototyping/Pilot Production

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