New chamber built to simulate battlefield for chemical agent sensor tests

A first-of-its-kind chamber has been developed by Applied Physics Laboratory engineers to test, under realistic battlefield conditions, the viability of sensors designed to detect chemical warfare agents.

The Defense Department's Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense asked APL in 2006 to design and build the chamber, which will be used to evaluate technologies and systems to aid in the detection, protection against and decontamination of chemical warfare agents.

“Our military operates over a wide range of battlefield conditions, whether it be in the high mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Iraq or off ships at sea,” Thomas Buckley, of APL’s National Security Technology Department and the Laboratory’s project manager for the chamber, told The JHU Gazette. “All of these are potential venues for adversary use of chemical warfare agents.”

The chamber's realistic testing conditions will allow APL to test how quickly its military detectors can pick up trace level amounts of chemical warfare agents.

“It operates over a wide range of temperature, humidity and simulated altitude while exposing the chemical agent detectors to interferents such as dust, smoke and diesel exhaust,” he says. “Its control systems will allow the monitoring, displaying and recording of data from the systems under test in conjunction with the DTC challenge conditions to allow analysis of the response of the SUT in real time.”

The chamber is also the first of its kind to give real time agent characterization for all test scenarios and make available feedback of additional system parameters.