One of the insidious things about chemical weapons is that they can be invisible to the naked eye. Encountered in small doses, floating on the air, they can leave soldiers mysteriously sickened without knowing why.
To deal with this problem, the US Army is investing in a new device that can be worn as a patch to detect “chemical, biological and other hazards in the vapor phase,” reports C4ISRNET. The sensor patch will gather samples without need for a power supply, then technicians will apply chromatography—a technique that separates elements of a mixture—to distinguish among as many as 1,000 separate compounds. The process will be able, for instance, to distinguish a nerve agent like VX from a common pesticide.
Scientists at the US Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland are developing the new sensor. While there have been other efforts to make a wearable that picks up toxins in the environment, this one is designed to be more accurate than its predecessors. The National Guard is trying out a prototype version.