New waste container sampling tools may identify chemical agents in field

New waste container sampling tools may identify chemical agents in field

Three sampling tools developed by researchers at the Department of Energy`s Los Alamos National Laboratory make it possible to extract liquid, gas, or powder samples from sealed containers and permanently seal the point of entry within a matter of seconds–without exposing personnel to the contents. The tools can obtain samples anywhere along a container`s wall at thicknesses up to one-half inch and internal container pressures up to eight atmospheres. All that is needed for their use is an off-the-shelf electric drill. Only “about two minutes of training” are said to be needed. The laboratory is operated by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Developed for nonproliferation and counterterrorism purposes, the tools can also be used to quickly and safely verify contents at storage and industrial sites, to perform quality-control checks on chemicals before they are used, and to check the unknown contents of abandoned or poorly marked containers. “The tools are very low-tech, and they`re incredibly light and can be taken virtually anywhere where sampling needs to be done,” explains Roger Johnston of Los Alamos` Advanced Chemical Diagnostics and Instrumentation Group. The researchers are seeking a patent on the tools.

The tools are the Model A can drill that can sample and reseal in a single step and can be reused on different containers and the Models B1 and B2 drills that remain attached to the container wall, allowing researchers to take multiple samples from the same container without having to re-drill.

The research team is miniaturizing Models B1 and B2 even further and creating cosmetic covering for Model A`s seal plug for undercover sampling. By making other adaptations and additions, these tools, the teams says, will be able to instantly identify chemical agents in the field. For additional information, contact Ternel Martinez at Los Alamos National Laboratory at (505) 665-7778. n

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