DARPA Demonstrates On-Site Chemical Warfare Agent Neutralization

It employs a novel, waterless soil-scrubbing technology that safely neutralized toxic chemicals simulating sarin, soman, and mustard agents.

DARPA has demonstrated a field-deployable system for on-site neutralization of bulk stores of chemical warfare agents -- a novel, waterless soil-scrubbing technology that safely neutralized toxic chemicals simulating sarin, soman, and mustard agents, the department's public affairs unit reported April 14. Created under the agency's Agnostic Compact Demilitarization of Chemical Agents (ACDC) program, it says the technology demonstrated greater than 99.9999 percent removal of the simulated chemicals without creating hazardous waste byproducts.

It was tested in conjunction with the Tactical Plasma Arc Chemical Warfare Agents Destruction System, which is a thermal treatment system under development for use by U.S. military services. It uses a high-temperature plasma torch to convert highly toxic chemicals into relatively benign components and then uses a water-based capture process to eliminate the last traces of contaminants, according to the report.

"We were very impressed with fast work by DARPA-supported researchers to develop the soil-based scrubber to test with the PACWADS," said Tyler McQuade, DARPA program manager. "These successful tests validated a critical component of the ACDC concept—a water-free, non-hazardous, soil-based process for on-site destruction of deadly chemicals. We now look forward to testing the ACDC scrubber with the PACWADS against actual chemical warfare agents in the coming months."

The ACDC soil scrubber was developed for DARPA by the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, while PACWADS was developed by PyroGenesis Canada, Inc. of Montreal, Canada.

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