Science & Technology Corner

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Innovates in a New Era of Chem-Bio Defense

Military capabilities to mitigate weapons of counter weapons of mass destruction is one of the key focus areas for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) research and engineering efforts. The DoD laboratories serve as the technical base for our Nation's military by supporting the Department throughout the entire life cycle of all weapon systems and maintaining a world class workforce of scientists and engineers with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

In December 2012, DoD identified a capability gap in chemical demilitarization operations, noting that a destruction technology for bulk chemical agents did not exist in a transportable platform. Department leadership, through the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, tasked the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) to come up with an agile, flexible weapons disposal capability that could be deployable to remote locations.  ECBC’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction Business Unit were given the project, being comprised of 200 highly trained and experienced scientists, technicians and operators who for decades,  have been safely conducting chemical demilitarization missions for decades. Six months after receiving funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, ECBC along with the provisional Joint Project Manager for Elimination (JPM-E) delivered the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS).

The FDHS is a transportable, high-throughput neutralization system designed to convert chemical warfare material into compounds not usable as weapons. It neutralizes bulk amounts of chemical warfare agents and their precursors through chemical reactions involving reagents that are mixed and heated.  Watch an animation of the process here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3_V28EmPG4.

The ECBC led the FDHS effort through full lifecycle development, from design, fabrication and engineering to the test evaluation of the system. As a result of a collaborative design phase with JPM-E, the FDHS is also a self-sufficient system that includes power generators and an onsite laboratory, needing only consumable materials such as water, reagents and fuel to operate.

The integrated teamwork from ECBC and its partners has enabled the U.S. to embark on an unprecedented mission in global chemical weapons material elimination. Two FDHS units are currently on the MV Cape Ray, a container ship that departed from Portsmouth, Va. in January 2014 as the DOD’s primary contribution toward international efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons material stockpile.

MV Cape RayMV Cape Ray departed from Portsmouth, VA  Jan. 27 to support the UN-OPCW  joint mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons material stockpile. Field Deployable Hydrolysis System unitOne of two Field Deployable Hydrolysis System units installed on MV Cape Ray.

Updated 3/28/14
Dept of Defense US Air Force OASAALT RDECOM ONR NRL US Air Force Joint Chiefs of Staff Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Force Health Protection & Readiness Defense Threat Reduction Agency Missile Defense Agency Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization Chemical & Biological Defense Program