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New system to destroy chemical warfare agents announced

Southwest Research Institute helps develop mobile system to destroy chemical warfare agents.

By
Richard Tomkins
The mobile chemical warfare agent destruction system, announced by Southwest Research Institute, can clear chemical weapons in both wet and dry situations. Photo courtesy Southwest Research Institute
The mobile chemical warfare agent destruction system, announced by Southwest Research Institute, can clear chemical weapons in both wet and dry situations. Photo courtesy Southwest Research Institute

April 17 (UPI) -- A mobile treatment system that destroys chemical warfare agents without producing hazardous waste has been announced by Southwest Research Institute.

The system it helped develop comes in two configurations, one wet and one dry.

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The dry pollution control process, suited for arid or remote regions, uses a Dedicated EGR engine thermal destruction device developed by Southwest Research Institute for the Agnostic Compact Demilitarization of Chemical Agents program of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projets Agency. When chemicals are destroyed, exhaust gases pass through a fluidized bed where the combusted byproducts are captured.

SwRI said the used soil remains non-hazardous.

A wet pollution system, developed by a Canadian company, has a stand-alone plasma torch treatment device with a liquid scrubber system.

"It is in our national interest to have a field-operable unit that can safely dispose of chemical warfare agents and other dangerous chemicals on the front lines in a timely manner," said Darrel Johnston, a senior program manager in SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. "We began development of the soil scrubber system in June 2016 and delivered a proof-of-concept system (to DARPA) in February 2017."

SwRI said the system is modular and fit into a large shipping container. Both wet and dry configurations have undergone initial testing in Canada. The dry soil-based scrubber was interfaced with the Canadian company's plasma torch front end and proved more than 99.9999 percent effective in destroying simulated chemical weapon agents.

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According to the Texas-based institute, the system is scheduled for testing with authentic chemical agents this summer.

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