Chemical weapons are such dirty business that even the ground they touch needs to be specially processed before even the dirt is safe for people again. Chemical weapons are banned by treaties, though that hasn't stopped a few countries from maintaining stockpiles. Right now it's possible to clean up that mess, but it's a tremendous amount of work, and expensive work too. Yesterday at DARPA's demo day, where the military's blue-sky projects agency showed off its latest progress, I spoke to some of the team working on Agnostic Compact Demilitarization of Chemical Agents, or ACDC. Their goal: a machine that turns chemical-weapon-tainted soil into fertile soil, that can fit roughly in a shipping container, and is a fraction of the cost to process the chemicals today.
Cicadas are a species most keenly felt by their absence. After years underground, their larvae crawl forth to the surface, shed their skins, and take to the sky in a great racket. Weeks later, all that remains are their empty bodies--a testament to the swarm that was. Developed by the Naval Research Laboratory, the lightweight, disposable Cicada drones are a similar beast: many flying all at once, turning to just brittle shells blowing in the wind once the battle is over. This week, the Pentagon put the latest version of the Cicada on display, a tiny robot warrior ready for the future.
Neutralizing chemical weapons typically requires large and complicated machinerythat may not be available to soldiers in the field. To help solve this problem, ateam of scientists at the University of California San Diego, led by nanoengineering professorJoseph Wang, created a self-propelled micromotor that helps degrade liquidchemical weapons throughstirring.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Destroying chemical weapons in a hurry is a difficult and dangerous task, and the need for fast results has to be balanced against the ever-present risk of lethal accidents.
In the midst of a particularly brutal civil war, international attention focused on the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against civilians. With a potential deal on the table for Russia to take and store Syria's chemical weapons, here is a look at what chemical weapons are, and what it takes to safely dispose of them.
Five years ago, DARPA challenged researchers to create a vacuum system smaller than a cubic centimeter and powered by just a quarter-Watt of energy. This week, DARPA announced the program's success. Researchers at University of Michigan, MIT, and Honeywell International have each demonstrated penny-sized micromachines that pave the way for scaled-down chemical sensors.