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Canadian Explosives Research Laboratory (CERL)

The Canadian Explosives Research Laboratory (CERL) is the only Canadian government laboratory, and one of few in the world, that offers explosives testing, analysis, certification and research related to explosives and their components. Our clients include national and international public and private partners. CERL is accredited under ISO/IEC17025:2017 and features state-of-the-art capabilities.

Testing and analysis services

We offer tests and analyses, including hazard testing, performance testing, chemical analysis and more. These tests and analyses have three main purposes:

  • authorizing or certifying components and products to ensure their safe and effective use as they go to market
  • ensuring that manufacture, transport, use and other processes for explosives and other unstable substances are safe and effective
  • mitigating the risk of intentional threats to the public

Explosives authorization and certification

Are you a manufacturer, transporter, seller or operator who wants their explosive product or substance to be authorized in Canada and appear on the list of authorized explosives? Or do you need to have it assessed for product trials under Canada’s laws or regulations for explosives?  We support Canada’s Chief Inspector of Explosives and the NRCan Explosives Regulatory Division in making such assessments.

We test a wide range of products, including blasting/industrial explosives and accessories, ballistics and sport ammunition, propellants for fireworks and pyrotechnics, model rocket motors, toy pistol caps and reactive targets. These tests ensure that only safe products make it to market and that innovation and safety go hand in hand as new products are developed.

Learn more about authorization of explosives, including fireworks and pyrotechnics and ammunition.

Safety and process hazards

Are the explosive products you handle and the processes you use to manufacture, transport, acquire, store, sell or operate them safe?

We conduct small-scale testing at the lab in Ottawa and occasionally perform large-scale tests using military ranges at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Petawawa (Ontario) and CFB Suffield (Alberta). Our world-class technology also includes shock tube testing (compressed air to simulate a blast wave) and software tools (i.e., computer modelling and analytics to understand explosions that cannot be conducted in real life).

Examples of our work


  • testing hundreds of fireworks mortars and rating their safety based on fragmentation and throw distance
  • evaluating mortar racks to assess their safety in case of a violent in-mortar explosion
  • analyzing the process within a perforating gun shop to determine the hazards associated with their loading and storage areas
  • designing and prototyping fireworks mortars

Process hazards

  • evaluating risks of runaway reactions during manufacture of metal alloys for the aeronautics industry
  • analyzing the compatibility of ammonium nitrate with various plant chemicals
  • determining the risks of a detonation following localized ignitions in the propellant industry
  • evaluating the explosion risk of explosives pumps in the mining industry

Security and emerging threats

New explosive or pyrotechnic compositions, including those used for homemade explosives (HMEs), pose threats to public safety. We are part of an international effort to examine the chemical and physical properties, improve our identification and detection capabilities, and prevent the unlawful use of these compositions. We also work to understand the potential effects of explosives used to cause intentional harm to the public or public infrastructure.

We test the restricted components used to make HMEs to evaluate the hazards, properties and feasibility of HME manufacture and how these materials might be used. This information supports relevant, science-based regulation and helps law enforcement personnel with their efforts to keep Canadians safe.

We also evaluate risks of intentional threats to the Government of Canada’s critical infrastructure in Canada and abroad (bridges, dams, embassies, etc.). We assess the biomechanics of blast injury, such as the risks to the public from an attack and the risks of injury to law enforcement personnel during tactical exercises. The results of our work inform and improve the design of infrastructure, personal protective equipment, and approaches and equipment used by emergency response teams.

Examples of our work

Most of the testing is conducted on site, at CERL facilities. For occasional large-scale testing we make use of remote test sites, such as the military ranges at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa (Ontario) and Canadian Forces Base Suffield (Alberta). We also supplement our live-fire explosion testing with blast simulators (shock tubes), that can generate shock-waves, and numerical analysis software, that can model explosion effects.

Interaction of blast waves with structures and the human body

  • studying the blast response of hardened structures and glazing
  • evaluating the risks of overpressure exposure to law enforcement personnel during tactical explosive operations
  • assessing critical energy infrastructure (pipelines, nuclear power facilities, electrical generation and distribution facilities such as dams) to evaluate their vulnerabilities against explosive loads

Equipment for handling explosives safely

  • developing containers for the RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit
  • developing and conducting tests to evaluate the performance of bomb suits, helmets and other accessories
  • designing and installing robot-controlled processes for energetic materials

Collaborate with us

Do you have a request that doesn’t fit the services described above? Whether you’re in private industry, academia or another government department, get in touch to discuss your research requirements involving explosives processes, capabilities and effects.

We can share costs, collaborate with other labs and provide advice, opinions and access to our facilities. We’re proud of our department’s capabilities. We enjoy working with varied international companies as well as supporting doctoral candidates in their work.

ISO accreditation

Accreditation symbol for the Standards Council of Canada

CERL is an internationally recognized testing laboratory that is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada. The Council affirms that our scope of accreditation conforms to the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 general requirements for the competence of calibration and testing laboratories. A number of national and international partners accept our test work as the basis for authorizing explosives and hazardous locations products.

We have explosives testing capabilities in five areas:

  • explosives testing
  • analytical chemistry laboratory
  • small-scale testing
  • thermal characterization
  • human vulnerability to blast

Standards development

We play an active role in national and international standards organizations, including the following:

Research and published work

Over a 10-year period, we’ve contributed to more than 50 papers and conference proceedings covering the following topics: thermal hazard assessment, combustion, detonation, blast effects, characterization of pyrotechnics, security, standards and instrumentation and test development.

Featured paper

Minimum burning pressures of water-based emulsion explosives

Pumping water-based emulsion explosives for blasting applications can be very hazardous. Over 10 years, we developed a protocol for measuring the minimum pressure required for the sustained burning of water-based emulsion explosives. It provides a guide to characterize the behaviour of these products in pumping systems.

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