Researchers have developed a product to detect chemical weapons accurately at low concentration levels. The Chemical Agent Disclosure Spray and the Contamination Indicator/Decontamination Assurance System (CIDAS) incorporates enzymes into polymers that would be stabilized for use outside the cell and then ultimately used in realistic battlefield environments.

Typically, enzymes are not stable outside the living organism but the fundamental polymer and enzyme chemistry research identified a way to maintain high activity of the enzymes for sensing chemicals in realistic battlefield conditions. The new technology uses enzymes (complex proteins naturally produced by living organisms that act as a catalyst for specific biochemical reactions) to drive rapid, color-based reactions with chemical warfare agents. Once applied to a surface as a liquid solution, a vivid color change indicates the exact location of contamination by a specific chemical warfare agent.

Because the underlying chemistry uses enzymes to drive specific biochemical reactions, the technology is highly resistant to potential forms of chemical and environmental interference that might be problematic for conventional detection equipment. The product’s sensitivity also provides the ability to determine whether decontamination was effective. The spray technology enables rapid detection of highly toxic substances while reducing the lifecycle cost of decontamination operations.

Products previously available for the detection of nerve and blister chemical agents range from simple units that use colorimetric techniques — wherein the presence of a chemical substance is indicated by a specific color change — to more complex systems that use special equipment. Unfortunately, most colorimetric-based products such as paper detection products or gas detection tubes can be highly susceptible to chemical interference, which can result in false positive and false negative results as well as poor sensitivity.

A kit packages the chemical components into a simple, pen-like construct; an easy-to-use point-and-touch detection; and a spray-based formulation of the same technology.

For more information, contact the U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs at 703-693-6477.