ECBC builds chemical agent research instrument

Scientists at the U.S. Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) in Maryland recently designed a new instrument to study how chemical warfare agents (CWAs) interact with materials and coatings designed for protection and decontamination.

The device, which was developed in conjunction with researchers from Virginia Tech and Excet, Inc., can perform ultra high vacuum (UHV) studies with CWAs, according to an ECBC press release.

"This UHV chamber can safely study CWAs using multiple instruments simultaneously, and that makes it very unique," Erin Durke, a scientist with Excet, said.

The device allows scientists to study interactions between CWAs including sarin and soman in real time with infrared spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

The research conducted with the device at the ECBC is designed to help the chemical defense community with information on toxic chemicals.

"If something breaks, you'll need to be able to open up and fix [the instrument] without potential harm," Wesley Gordon, a scientist with the ECBC, said "With this instrumentation we can do that."

The device was originally built and tested by Gordon at Virginia Tech. Once testing and construction on the instrument was complete, it was moved to the ECBC in 2010.

Current research with the surface science instrument is funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.