Chinese scientists have claimed a major breakthrough in magnetic detection technology which could find hidden metallic objects, including minerals and submarines.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, China's largest research institute, said in an article this week that a "superconductive magnetic anomaly detection array" has been developed in Shanghai and passed inspection by an expert panel, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The device, which works from the air, could be used to pinpoint the location of minerals buried deep beneath the earth in Inner Mongolia, for example, with a level of precision as high as anything currently available around the world, the experts were quoted as saying by the report.
The device could also be used on civilian and military aircraft as a "high-performance equipment and technical solution to resources mapping, civil engineering, archaeology and national defence," the article said.
China's military may soon adopt the technology, if it has not already, said Professor Zhang Zhi, an expert in remote sensing with the Institute of Geophysics and Geomatics, China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, Hubei.
"The technology could be used to detect minerals on land, and in the ocean to nail down submarines," Zhang, who was not involved in the project was quoted by the Post saying.
Dr Lei Chong, an assistant researcher studying MAD technology at the Department of Micro/Nano Electronics, Shanghai Jiaotong University, said the Chinese device was different from conventional designs in at least two ways.
The first is the large number of probes the device uses. With this "array", it can collect much more data than traditional detectors, which tend to use just one antenna, said Lei, who was not involved in the project.
The new MAD also uses a superconductive computer chip cooled by liquid nitrogen. This super-cool environment significantly increases the device's sensitivity to signals that would be too faint for traditional devices to spot.
"I am surprised they made such an announcement," Lei said. "Usually this kind of information is not revealed to the public because of its military value," he said.