DTRA solicits early warning anthrax detection clothing

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency has expressed major interest in materials built with covert chemical warfare detectors to more effectively spot bioterrorism threats like anthrax.

The defense solicitation by the DTRA, a unit charged with reducing threats from nuclear weapons and biological warfare, requested detection technologies that generate covert signatures that become apparent under black or infrared light. The materials would change when exposed to chemical weapons, medical isotopes, nuclear materials or anthrax spores, NextGov reports.

Such a detection method could also be used by the nuclear industry to protect employees from radiation leaks. The detection materials could also be added to construction materials or industrial paint.

The federal government has been trying to find new chemical warfare detection methods for years, issuing a call in 2010 for methods to map out chemical vapors across entire cities. One challenge scientists have faced is creating a detection method that does not yield a significant amount of false positives. Another issue is that the chemical signal from a biological weapon sample can be drowned out by substances in the environment, according to NextGov.

Researchers at Queen's University in Belfast have developed methods to shine laser beams onto a sample to analyze the light scattered to identify a chemical compound. The Australian Defense Department has also experimented with hand-held biological and chemical agent detection devices.