I’ve always been interested in new gadgets so periodically I’ll provide a brief review of some new technology and gadgets that are being developed that could be used in protecting a chemical facility from a potential terrorist attack. Warning: I have not laid a hand on any of these gadgets so all of this information is from the web sites indicated; appearance on this page is not an endorsement of any product or technology.
Breathable Material for Hazmat Suits
Anyone that has worn any kind of chemical protective gear knows how uncomfortable they can get. The better they protect you from chemical vapors, the hotter they get. Some researchers at Drexel University have come up with a polymer that does for chemical protection what Gortex® did for rain gear; it breathes.
The polymer has nano-pores filled with an ionic polymer. These pores allow water vapor to pass through the fabric. In an environment where there is an unhealthy concentration of a hazardous vapor an electric field can be applied to the fabric and the pores are closed. The patent is pending for switchable protective clothing.
Linear Chemical Detector
Most chemical detection sensors are point type devices, potentially allowing significant portions of a vapor cloud to slide on past before the chemicals are detected. Here is a fiber optic cable where the cable is the detector, allowing a perimeter to be wired with a chemical detector. A chemical reaction between the cable coating and the chemical to be detected causes the coating, and the transmitted light, to change color.
Intelligent Optical Systems originally developed these Di-Cast cables to detect hydrogen leaks for fuel cells in electric vehicles. Then 9/11 came along and changed the picture for the company, switching its customer base from the military to DHS. Tests are being conducted in an unnamed city using these cables to detect chemicals in an actual subway system.
A Tiny GC-Mass Spec
Chemical detection and identification in a hazmat response situation can be difficult at best. At a chemical plant with many different hazardous chemicals on site it can be even more difficult. What is really needed is a small gas chromatograph equipped with a mass spectrometer detector. Unfortunately these have been too big and unwieldy to carry into an incident cite.
An international team led by an MIT professor is changing that. They have already shrunk a portable GC-Mass Spec to the size of a computer mouse. They are aiming to get it to the size of a matchbox. The smaller size device uses less power and can detect trace amounts of hazardous gasses. This is a DARPA funded project.
Multi-sensor Control Platform
As companies start to look at installing more cameras, motion sensors, chemical detectors, etc to monitor their site for a potential terrorist attack they start to run into a sensory overload condition; too much information. The problem is made even worse since very few suppliers are able to provide all of the sensors and cameras needed to adequately cover a chemical facility’s needs. That means that there is no one computer thatcan monitor/control all of the facilities security tools.
Zone Advanced Protection Systems, an Australian company has developed a solution, a computer system that will tie together sensors from a wide variety of technologies and suppliers into a multi-sensor control platform. The output from the various devices is displayed on a map based GUI so that security personnel can see what has been detected, where. Remote controlled cameras can be operated from the same control system to check out the situation.
More Neat Stuff Coming
With more facilities doing more work on their site security there are more and more companies getting into the security equipment business. New solutions to old and new problems will continue to come out of research labs and start-up companies. Security planners need to keep in touch with the many new developments coming out in this expanding field.