Welcome to the CANMET Canadian Explosives Research Laboratory, also known as CERL.
We improve the safety and security of Canadians by reducing the risks associated with the manufacture, transportation, storage and use of explosives.
As a division within the Explosives Safety and Security Branch of the Minerals and Metals Sector of Natural Resources Canada, we are the only Canadian government laboratory and one of few in the world - studying science and technology related to the safety and security of commercial explosives, such as: blasting explosives, explosive precursors, fireworks, pyrotechnic articles, propellant powders, and ammunition.
[Part 2 - What we do]
Explosives are used in a wide variety of industries and applications, and touch our lives in many ways, from making mining possible to providing entertainment at fireworks shows.
CERL’s work is divided in two main areas: Explosives Safety and Explosives Security.
Whether we are testing a product for authorization in Canada, or developing measures to reduce the effects of the accidental or intentional misuse of explosives, our staff’s specialized expertise is unparalleled.
Our laboratories and testing capabilities are extensive, and include three blast chambers for detonation testing, numerous United Nations-specified safety tests and well-equipped laboratories for chemical and thermal analysis.
Larger scale tests are undertaken with the cooperation of the Department of National Defence at:
Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in Ontario and Defence Research and Development Canada in Suffield, Alberta
Our commitment to quality research is respected and recognized around the world.
[Part 3 - Safety]
At CERL, our testing and research has been instrumental in developing standards to ensure the safety and well-being of all Canadians.
Our facilities are unique in Canada, and our work is diverse.
We have a broad interest in explosives safety and work in many areas, such as:
Testing of explosive magazines.
The safe storage of smokeless powder and other propellants.
The testing of explosives for transport classification.
Assessing the thermal stability of explosives.
A significant fraction of all fireworks tested by CERL fail safety tests and are therefore not authorized for sale or use in Canada. The biggest concern for fireworks is mass explosion in storage or during transport.
A malfunction of a firework mortar rack can cause misalignment, resulting in the fireworks being accidentally fired into crowds of onlookers or endangering the fireworks technician. CERL’s work has demonstrated how mortar racks might be configured to minimise such risks.
Explosives magazines are designed to keep explosives secure from theft, but they are not intended to provide protection in the event of an accidental explosion.
These tests show what would happen in the event of an accidental detonation of even small amounts of explosives stored inside an explosives magazine.
Our results illustrate that these structures, while designed to resist fire, break-in, and projectile impact, do little to protect against the effects of explosions occurring within their walls.
[Classification of explosives for transport]
Articles classified under the UN Transport of Dangerous Goods system as 1.4S, with a minor explosion hazard, are allowed to be transported on a passenger aircraft.
This single package test demonstrates that an explosive previously classified as 1.4S had the ability to breach its packaging and cause collateral damage.
As a result of CERL’s work, explosives are properly classified for transport and Canadians are safer.
This test shows what could happen if there was a fire near fireworks packed into boxes. Three, two, one - fire. Will it blow up in a fire? Will first responders be at risk?
Tests of this kind have resulted in the improved packaging of fireworks for transportation.
CERL’s research has resulted in better safety standards and important changes to regulations, including the UN Transport of Dangerous Goods manual.
[Stability of Explosives]
CERL devotes a significant amount of effort to looking at the stability of explosives. In particular, we often measure at what temperature an explosive will become unstable and start to react dangerously. We also investigate the compatibility of explosives with materials that might make them less stable. This work is used to improve the safety of explosives during manufacture, transport and storage.
[Part 4 Security]
The other major area of CERL expertise is explosives security. CERL works extensively in the area of non-military security and is a centre of expertise for civilian blast protection and homemade explosives.
Our unique facilities and expertise allow us to undertake blast modeling and blast vulnerability assessments. CERL can test explosive products up to 5 kg on-site and much larger charges off-site.
We have a team of specialists working in the area of explosion effects and their mitigation - determining the vulnerability of buildings and other infrastructure as it pertains to blast effects.
Smart building design can greatly limit the number of fatalities from explosives-related threats. CERL has been developing this expertise and has been instrumental in providing the information needed in order to design and retrofit buildings with the technology required to limit damage and casualties.
CERL expertise has recently been used to evaluate the vulnerability of a wide range of buildings and structures, such as:
Train stations and
Bridges and tunnels.
In order to be better available to carry out vulnerability assessments, we often carry out blast research on building components. Examples include:
[Window Blast Resistance]
Our work in the area of window blast resistance has led to the development of windows that are more resistant to explosions...
[Blast Resistance of Walls]
Testing allows walls to be better designed to withstand the effects of a blast.
[Pipeline Blast Resistance]
By simulating explosive attacks, CERL trials can lead to pipelines that are better protected from a terrorist attack.
[Blast Resistance of Protective structures]
This test shows a guard shack building that was shown to be well fortified and highly resistant to explosives attack.
Our expertise in the area of explosive security, developed through our blast research, has led to improvements in building design and retrofitting that saves lives.
As well as commercial explosives, Natural Resources Canada also regulates chemicals that can be used to make explosives - precursor chemicals, such as ammonium nitrate. From a security perspective, we need to understand which precursors are particularly suitable for making homemade explosives, so that precursors can be regulated appropriately and homemade explosives can be identified, neutralized and disposed of safely.
At CERL, our researchers are among the best in the field of explosives testing and research.
Time and time again, our specialized expertise has resulted in policy decisions that protect Canadians, and make all of our lives safer and more secure.