U.S. Army patents new decontaminant

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center with a patent for the invention of a sorbent technology designed to improve efforts to decontaminate highly toxic materials.

The patent, number 7,678,736, is the sixth U.S. patent issued to the ECBC, the premier national resource for biological and chemical defense, during the 2010 fiscal year.

The newly patented sorbent, which is a material used to absorb liquids or gases, accelerates the decontamination of substances, including chemical warfare agents, industrial chemicals, insecticides and VX, which is one of the most toxic and well-known nerve agents.

"The increased efficiency reduces the amount of sorbent required to decontaminate affected surfaces and, therefore, the costs involved," Rick Decker, ECBC technical director, said. "But more importantly, every step we take towards enhancing decontamination technology of chemical warfare agents takes us one step closer to protecting the warfighter and civilian population."

Chemical warfare agents that are delivered as fine aerosol mists deposit on the surfaces of equipment and hardware, presenting serious inhalation threats to first responders and U.S. troops.

The modified reactive sorbent is capable of absorbing and converting these extremely toxic materials into less toxic products and neutralizes VX-contaminated surfaces 1,000 times faster than existing sorbent materials.

"Each second counts when it comes to reducing the hazardous conditions our warfighters and homeland are exposed to," George Wagner, Ph.D., the research chemist credited with the invention of the sorbent, said.