Research by two Queen's University scientists, Stan Brown and Alexei Neverov, has resulted in a new method for rapidly and safely destroying toxic agents such as chemical weapons and pesticides. Testing by an independent European defense corporation has shown the researchers' method to be over 99 percent effective when used on the deadly nerve agents Tabun, Soman, and VX.
Phosphorus-based chemical weapons, pesticides, and related compounds act as acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors, meaning they block nerve impulses. This leads to paralysis, respiratory failure, and eventually death. The Queen's scientists invented mild, non-corrosive alcohol-based methodologies that are effective in destroying these types of organophosphorus agents in seconds.
The reaction products of the tested method are non-toxic, making it a "green" alternative to existing decontamination practices that rely on caustic agents, such as lye or bleach, that can damage contaminated equipment or facilities. The decontamination methodology has no special environmental requirements, so it can be easily stored and used at all temperatures and under most conditions. One application is in counteracting possible terrorist attacks using chemical weapons agents.