Ex lighting is an important addition to hazardous areas where potentially explosive compounds are stored and worked with, providing much-needed illumination without the threat of sparking an explosion.

But a new lighting device being tested by the University of Adelaide could take this a step further, allowing Ex lighting itself to detect trace amounts of explosives that cannot be identified using other methods.

Project leader Dr Georgios Tsiminis explains that the methods used to locate explosives in the past have often looked not for the explosives themselves, but for their container.

When the container is not metallic though, it can be hard to locate hidden explosives – and electrical detectors might cause an explosion risk.

The university has now developed a device that uses green laser light to illuminate a plastic material which, in turn, emits red light.

In the presence of explosives, the amount of red light that is emitted decreases, allowing for the detection of explosive compounds even at concentrations as low as 6.3 parts per million.

Of course, in many cases, Ex lighting is just there to provide illumination, and not for an active process like detecting explosives – but it’s an example of how this technology is finding new applications in hazardous areas.