The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) assisted the United States Armed Forces this month in protecting warfighters from exposure to chemical agents that could contaminate the coatings of contemporary combat vehicles.
ECBC researchers who specialize in material decontamination learned that coatings, specifically the ones the Army uses to coat its vehicles, can emit harmful vapors long after treatment and the initial coating. By carefully reviewing the Army’s current chemical agent resistance method, they determined that vapor collection accounted for only 43 percent of the agent in the coating sample, leaving the remaining 57 percent trapped in the material, potentially leaking out over time.
“We had to change the Army’s perspective on chemical agent resistance from presuming that coatings do not re-emit agent to a realization that they do absorb agent and will re-emit agent later,” Brent Mantooth, lead researchers at ECBC, said. “What goes into to the coating eventually comes out, so we had to come up with a way to accurately measure retained agent. We also had to figure out and demonstrate how to accurately measure retained agent in a robust and reliable fashion for many different types of materials and agents.”
The new method involved immersing the surface in soapy water, coupled with water rinses. From this method, the researchers were able to remove surface-bound liquid agent before using a solvent to extract the agent absorbed by the material.
With this new procedure, Mantooth and his team will finalize a multi-laboratory verification and validation process to prove the new method’s repeatability and reproducibility. After, the method will be codified in the U.S. Military Standard, which all vendors of coatings to the U.S. armed services will be required to follow.