OU Professor awarded Silver Medal for pioneering work

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An Open University Professor has been awarded a Silver Medal in Noise from the Acoustical Society of America (ASA).

Professor Keith Attenborough has worked on pioneering research into the way the ground is excited by sound, which has subsequently been used to develop a way of detecting buried landmines remotely.

He will receive his medal from the ASA in Kansas City, in October, for his contributions to noise control materials, ground impedance, and outdoor noise propagation.

Professor Attenborough, who was amongst the first scientists to look at the physics of the interaction of airborne sound with the ground, has been working on the concepts behind the acoustic landmine detection method for more than twenty years. He said he hoped that the sound detection techniques will be used in the future to locate buried landmines and eventually help to save lives.

He said: “This new technique detects the unusual seismic activity induced by airborne sound directly above a buried landmine, using either a geophone – which is used by geophysicists to measure ground layering with a seismic refraction test- or with a laser beam device.

“Colleagues from the University of Mississippi in the USA tested the laser beam method in certain ‘blind’ trial areas provided by the US Army and found that the sound detection method located 98 per cent of buried mines, whilst a team using current detection methods which involve ground penetrating radar, detected only 67 per cent.

“My research on sound-to-ground coupling in Mississippi was supported financially by the US army Corps of Engineers and my more recent work on buried landmine detection was supported in the UK by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory,”

Professor Attenborough, who is now semi-retired, is continuing to work on several ongoing research projects at The Open University.

At the Institute of Acoustics, he works on educational activities ranging from a postgraduate Diploma in Acoustics and Noise Control to promoting a classroom kit which encourages school children to try out different methods of sound proofing their bedrooms for playing loud music.