The working principle of the application of high-power lasers for the neutralization of explosive devices is based on thermal effects. Heating of the IEDs main charge may occur either by direct irradiation of the explosive material or by heat transfer through the main charge’s confinement. The aim of the application of the laser is to achieve a low order burning reaction of the explosive charge and thus a controlled neutralization of the IED. Since laser beams allow for the directed transport of energy, this technique can be applied over long stand-off distances and has thus potential for an increase of the safety of clearing forces and population in the case of terroristic attacks in a civilian environment.
Within the ENCOUNTER project, a laboratory environment has been set up which allows for the irradiation of IEDs with a laser power of up to 10 kW. Experiments have been carried out on a broad spectrum of different types of IEDs. The processes during neutralization were studied in detail with high-speed diagnostics. On the basis of these experimental data, the safety and the reliability of the application of the laser was analyzed, and recommendations to end users were given. In addition to the results of the ENCOUNTER project, approaches for the numerical simulation of the neutralization of IEDs are discussed.