SwRI-Developed Mobile System to Destroy Dangerous Chemical Warfare Agents on Site

Mobile treatment unit uses readily available resources in the field, producing no hazardous waste

SAN ANTONIO--()--Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) helped develop and recently completed initial testing of a field-deployable treatment system that destroys chemical warfare agents (CWAs) using locally available resources. The modular unit, designed to fit into a large shipping container for easy transport, includes two pollution abatement configurations – one wet and one dry process – that can be deployed depending on the available resources of the location.

“We began development of the soil scrubber system in June 2016 and delivered a proof-of-concept system in February 2017.”

Because current chemical destruction methods produce hazardous byproducts during the neutralization process, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a call for innovative systems that can neutralize chemicals or dangerous material without creating hazardous waste. The resulting modular mobile unit can be easily transported and deployed in a field setting close to where hazardous chemicals may be stored.

“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 in February 2017.”

SwRI designed the dry pollution control process, ideal for arid or remote regions, for use with SwRI’s Dedicated EGR® engine thermal destruction device developed for DARPA’s Agnostic Compact Demilitarization of Chemical (ACDC) Agents program. Once the chemicals are destroyed, exhaust gases pass through the SwRI soil-based fluidized bed where the combusted byproducts are captured. The used soil remains non-hazardous. The wet pollution control system, developed by a Canadian company for its stand-alone plasma torch treatment device, includes a liquid scrubber system. Using local soil eliminates the significant logistical burden of providing water to remote sites and transporting liquid waste to a treatment facility.

The performance of both the wet and the dry scrubber units were independently verified and validated in recent tests performed in Canada. When the dry soil-based scrubber was interfaced with the Canadian company’s plasma torch front end, the system demonstrated a more than 99.9999 percent destruction of simulated CWAs and effective scrubbing of acid gases.

The systems are scheduled to be tested this summer with authentic CWAs, in both the liquid-scrubber and soil-scrubber configurations.

Editors: Image to accompany this story: http://www.swri.org/press/2017/cwa-mobile-destroy-system.htm

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Southwest Research Institute
Tracey M.S. Whelan, 210-522-2256
twhelan@swri.org

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