2019: The Year In Review
2019: The Year In Review
Army Partners with Tech Startup to Develop Portable Biological Reader
The Center signed two technology-sharing agreements on Jan. 23 with tech startup TrekReader, an Arizona-based startup technology company. The company is now licensed to further develop Center technology that will provide Soldiers, first responders and even school nurses with a pocket-sized instrument that can detect dangerous biological and chemical substances. Center Director Eric Moore, Ph.D., and TrekReader CEO Robert Baumgardner signed a non-exclusive patent licensing agreement that grants TrekReader the rights to use the Center’s VOCkit as the starting point for their product, and an associated collaborative research and development agreement that allows the parties to work together in the development of a new handheld universal reader.
Army Completes Explosive Destruction System Ops at Pueblo
Members of the Center’s Chemical Biological Application & Risk Reduction (CBARR) business unit completed the destruction of 391 chemical munitions that were either recovered at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD) or unfit for processing in the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP). This work was done using the Explosive Destruction System (EDS) in partnership with the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity and the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. Munitions destroyed in the campaign included M70 bombs, 105mm and 155mm projections, and 4.2-inch mortars containing mustard agent.
Chemical Biological Center Aligns Under New Command
The Army Materiel Command (AMC) and Army Futures Command (AFC) held a ceremony on Jan. 31 transitioning the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) from AMC to AFC. The transfer became official on Feb. 3, and RDECOM has been renamed the Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC). As the Army’s newest command and the largest of AFC’s three major elements, CCDC comprises eight major and three international centers and research laboratories. As a component of the CCDC, the Center will play a crucial role within AFC by performing research and developing battlefield technologies that support multi-domain operations in chemical and biologically contaminated environments.
NBCRV Sensor Suite Upgrades Draw Praise from CBRN Stakeholders
The Army detects chemical biological (CB) threats in the field using an eight-wheeled fighting vehicle, called the Stryker, modified with chemical detection sensors. This version is known as the Stryker Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle or NBCRV. Using current CB detection technology, the NBCRV is only able to detect threats at close range while moving slowly or completely stopped. That can directly expose the vehicle to the threat and create an easy target for the enemy. So the Center upgraded the NBCRV with a suite of its latest, most technologically advanced sensors that can be mounted anywhere on the vehicle and allow it to detect CB remotely and while moving. The upgraded vehicle was put to the test in a field exercise last February at an Aberdeen Proving Ground test range.
Center Extends STEM Outreach to Homeschool Students
The Center’s STEM Outreach Program has partnered with the Cecil County Public Library to offer its supplemental science instruction, usually reserved for area public schools, to Cecil County homeschool students. The Center brings non-traditional science projects to students in area public schools. Now, those same programs are available to home-school students, ages 11-17. This community outreach program offers hands-on demonstrations of chemical reactions and has tackled reverse engineering projects like do-it-yourself speakers and making replacement parts for pre-computer-age electronic components.
Team Puts Existing Chemical Destruction Technology to New Use at Pine Bluff Arsenal
The Army Corps of Engineers is engaged in a years-long project to unearth items that were buried at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, in Jefferson County, Ark., during operations dating back to 1941. Recovered items include suspected mustard-filled chemical agent identification sets, five German Traktor rockets and one 4.2-inch mortar. The Center, in partnership with the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity, recently began destroying these items using the Explosive Destruction System after adapting it to perform non-munitions destruction, too.
Software Upgrade Could Advance Long-Range Fire Detection
Integrated Early Warning (IEW) provides advance warning to Soldiers on the battlefield for a host of different threats, including chemical and biological, so it is a top priority of the Department of Defense. The Center is at the forefront of IEW and sensor integration research, development and testing. It teamed up with the U.S. Army in a recent live-fire data collection test at Dugway Proving Ground. The technology the Center has developed to provide early warning of chemical biological threats may prove suitable to integrate with the Army’s existing counterfire radars, which are designed to detect and track incoming artillery and rocket fire to determine the point of origin for counterfire measures. Center researchers hope to develop an algorithm that takes raw data from the radars and translates it into an ability to distinguish between in-flight chemical and non-chemical rounds.
State and Local Leaders Visit Chemical Biological Center During Immersion Day
In April, Aberdeen Proving Ground held an event called Immersion Day to familiarize Maryland state delegates and Harford County government officials with the unique capabilities APG offers the Army, the warfighter and nation. Throughout the day, they took advantage of the opportunity to have meaningful discussions about the Army Futures Command and the role it plays in research, development and testing, and additive manufacturing. The day included a tour of the Center’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing (ADM) facility which houses a comprehensive suite of manufacturing, prototyping and fabrication capabilities designed to develop CBRNE product solutions for the U.S. Army and the U.S. Chemical and Biological Defense Program.
Coffee with Colleagues Marks 9th Year
In May, the Center held its 9th annual Coffee with Colleagues event. It drew more than 400 people together to view 125 scientific, engineering and capabilities posters. Center attendees got a glimpse at the work of other Center researchers, developers and staff. Projects in this competitive event spanned an array of topics including Multi Point Pin Technology, Metal Organic Frameworks, biologically derived nanoparticles and more that detect, shield or decontaminate chemical warfare agents.
Chemical Biological Center Holds 3rd Annual Gas Mask Dash
The 3rd annual Gas Mask Dash brought 250 runners and walkers from around the Center and the community together for a 5K race and 2 mile walk. Men, women, children and even a few four legged companions tackled the course and had a great time. Members of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Command joined in the run for some extra physical fitness training as well.
Cox Selected as CCDC Chemical Biological Center R&T Director
Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, the commanding general of CCDC, the Center’s higher headquarters, announced the promotion of Frederick Cox, Ph.D., to director of research and technology for the Center. Cox was appointed to the Army Senior Executive Service (SES) Corps, the civilian equivalent of a general or flag officer. Through this appointment, Cox joined a small and distinct group of senior executives tasked with providing leadership to the civilian workforce.
Chemical Hot Air Decontamination
Center researchers have been working with a process called Chemical Hot Air Decontamination (CHAD) to remove toxic contaminants from warfighter equipment like sensitive electronics that cease operating after exposure to traditional chemical decontamination techniques, like bleach. The CHAD process can remove the chemical warfare agent within 24 to 72 hours. CHAD consists of placing a contaminated item into an enclosure and increasing the temperature of the chamber to drive off any contaminants. The chamber has a slow air flow through it, which carries away the contaminants from the item and allows for characterization of the effluent air stream.
CCDC Chemical Biological Center Statue Honors Soldiers, Scientists
The Center unveiled a permanent reminder of the relationship between Soldiers and Army researchers on June 17 in a dedication ceremony held in front of the Center’s Advanced Chemistry Laboratory. More than 100 members of the Center workforce were on hand as the shroud was removed from the statue titled Cum Scientia Defendimus – With Science We Defend. The statue’s more-than-two-year journey began as the brainchild of Frederick J. Cox, Ph.D., the Center’s director of research and technology.
Army Researchers Look to Biology to Develop Next-Gen Power Alternatives
Center scientists are developing technologies that use the unique properties of bacterial magnetosomes – biologically-derived nanoparticles – to grow electronic components out of living bacteria. Long strings of these magnetite nanoparticles are produced within the bacteria when they are deprived of oxygen. In their search for oxygen, the strings of magnetosomes serve as a kind of internal compass that lets them navigate to a more oxygen-rich environment using the Earth’s geomagnetic field. These scientists plan to use alternating layers of non-conducting nanocellulose and magnetic magnetosomes to create an ultra-thin, biologically-grown transformer. It’s not a metal. It’s something that’s alive and maybe these could, down the line, work in materials that could self-repair—truly a revolutionary technology.
Iodine Grenade Could Provide Biological Decontamination
The ability to easily ensure that books, papers, computers, and electronics recovered by warfighters in the field are free from biological hazards is critical to military operations. Researchers at the Center are working on a device that could get the job done with the pull of a pin. Currently, the Army uses bleach, which is very corrosive and can easily destroy the files on a laptop computer. So these researchers are working on a far less destructive decontamination technology, an iodine smoke grenade. Free of propellants, the grenade works like a roadside safety flare or a bug bomb. It is effective against spores and vegetative cells and is far easier to bring along on a mission than liquid bleach.
Sprayable Decontaminant Slurry Could be in Warfighters Hands Soon
Under the current methods of material decontamination, platforms and personnel would have to leave the fight and use vast amounts of water and other resources to be rendered safe. When deployed, a decontamination slurry developed by the Center will provide more efficient and effective decontamination for vehicles and equipment on the battlefield. After three demonstrations between March and June 2019, the slurry has more than met expectations and it could be in warfighters’ hands in as little as three to five years. “Just a quart-size sprayer filled with slurry can decontaminate up to 50 square feet of vehicle surface and have it back in action as fast as a warfighter can spray it,” said Center chemist Joseph Myers who has been developing it over the last five years.
Rock Island Employees Expand Horizons in Mentor Program
Seventeen Center employees at Rock Island Arsenal completed a three-month journey of self-assessment and leadership skills development as they graduated from the first Mentoring Program held at the Center’s Illinois site. The program pairs rising Center employees with experienced mentors and provides students with a slate of facilitated exercises and guest speakers, all aimed at helping employees learn about themselves, their coworkers and how they can best contribute to the organization. The program has been a staple of employee development at the Center’s main campus at Aberdeen Proving Ground since it began in 2012.
CBOA Provides Opportunities to See New Technologies in the Field
Researchers from the Center met with warfighters and other stakeholders to showcase and gather feedback on emerging chemical and biological defense technologies during a training event at Camp Dawson, West Virginia Aug. 17-23. The Chemical Biological Operational Analysis (CBOA), developed and executed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, provides researchers an opportunity to elicit warfighter feedback during the technology development process. The week-long event drew hundreds of scientists, engineers, warfighters and stakeholders to engage in meetings, discussions and demonstrations of emerging technologies. The Center showcased six technologies at CBOA with 26 subject matter experts in attendance as warfighters conducted simulated missions.
Biologists Develop Rad Plan to Test Protective Suits
When the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School’s Joint Experimentation and Analysis Division (JEAD) needed to find a way to get more mileage out of the expensive protective suits worn by Army civil support teams in radiological environments, they looked for answers from a team of biologists at the Center’s BioTesting Division located at Dugway Proving Ground in the Utah desert. They worked with JEAD researchers by simulating radiological fallout in the Center’s Aerosol Simulant Exposure Chamber using a fluorescent dust known as Glo Germ. Evaluators examined the suits under a black light and removed samples from the suits to determine their level of contamination. They further examined and photographed the samples under a fluorescing microscope.
Center Designers Deliver Realism to CBRN Warfighters
Since 1999, the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity’s has used its Chemical Defense Training Facility (CDTF) to create an immersive training experience for warfighters. However, as digital technology advanced, the time came for a dramatic upgrade. So a team of designers from the Center’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing (ADM) Division were asked if they could use composite photography and 3D renderings to transform this training area from a simple brick and mortar room into a vastly more realistic graphics technology-enabled training space. The team used virtual reality to replicate real-life chemical threat scenarios warfighters could find themselves in. This entailed diving deep into the minute details of what a crumbling building looks like after an explosion, the textures of rock, steel and glass, as well as perspective. After several iterations, the end result is second to none in terms of realism and detail.
Mobile Test Chamber Eases Challenges for Conducting Gas Mask Tests
Conducting protection factor tests is a challenge for researchers when it comes to shooting a weapon while wearing a gas mask. Center researchers needed a way to conduct live-fire tests from inside a test enclosure while maintaining the correct concentration of aerosol simulant to ensure proper test results. The enclosure also had to be mobile enough to easily transport to firing ranges or other customer test sites. So they modified what was readily available, an off-the-shelf, inflatable paint spray booth. It inflates just like a bouncy house you see at a child’s birthday party. The research team added ventilation ports into the interior of the chamber so that aerosol simulant can be pumped into the chamber directly through the blower which is also used to inflate it. This ensures uniform aerosol concentration throughout the interior which meets the joint service standard for conducting protection factor testing.
Unique Team Handles Army’s Chemical and Biological Packaging
Military packaging requirements are stringent. They depend upon expertise to ensure that items packed can withstand all types of transportation, survive long-term storage, stand up to temperature extremes, and be accessed easily by the end user. This is particularly true of chemical and biological packaging. The Center’s Packaging Handling, Storing & Transportation Branch gets that job done for the Army, as the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Command can attest to. The 20th CBRNE Command used to procure supplies through local purchases or supply systems, causing warfighters to wait weeks, even months to receive some items. Now, the Center’s Packaging Handling, Storing & Transportation Branch provides the 20th CBRNE Command with chemical and biological packaging using its specialized knowledge of chemical biological technology and equipment, achieving the speed and reliability of delivery the 20th needs.
Moore Named FLC Lab Director of the Year, Center Receives FLC Excellence in Technology Transfer Award
Center Director Eric L. Moore, Ph.D., was named Laboratory Director of the Year by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Mid-Atlantic. Moore earned the award for his outstanding contributions to the overall enhancement of technology transfer for economic development and for accomplishments related to the transfer of technology from a federal laboratory to industry. Also, nine Center employees received an award for their outstanding work in transferring federally developed technology to industry.
Soldiers Brief Center Scientists on Challenges, Concerns in Korea Theatre
Soldiers from the U.S. Army 1st Theatre Tactical Signal Brigade, Camp Humphreys, Republic of Korea visited the Center for a 10-day professional development assignment under the Center’s Warfighter Innovation Leveraging (Mission) Expertise and Experimentation (WILE-E) program. This latest interaction with warfighters continues a WILE-E initiative to open lines of communication between scientists and Soldiers to encourage better and more frequent interactions.
Center Team Leads Research in Explosives Contamination in Soil
Researchers at the Center have developed the first-ever soil screening levels to use in measuring the amount of contamination in soil at explosives training grounds. The Environmental Protection Agency has established Ecological Soil Screening Levels (Eco SSL) to determine when remediation is required. The Center’s research team has greatly contributed to this effort by conducting over 70 ecotoxicological assessments and determined toxicity benchmarks. The EPA will use this data in drafting further Eco SSLs for explosives.
New CBRNE Urban Training Area Planned; Modular Design Will Allow for Greater Flexibility
The Center’s Advanced CBRNE Training Branch is creating a new training area to teach Soldiers to recognize the manufacturing of WMDs made from CBRNE materials. It will include a combination of double-wide modular homes, shipping containers and large sheds to form a mock community at the Center to provide an ideal urban training environment for recognizing WMD targets. It will be used to train National Guard civil support teams which are the nation’s first responders when local law enforcement suspects that it has encountered a CBRNE production set up.