The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) in US has successfully tested a field-deployable system for neutralising toxic chemicals like sarin, soman, and mustard gas by using a waterless soil-scrubbing technology.

The system has been developed under Darpa's Agnostic Compact Demilitarization of Chemical Agents (ACDC) program, that aims to develop technology to neutralise bulk stores of chemical warfare agents (CWA). During initial tests, it removed toxic chemicals, without creating any hazardous waste by-products with a 99.99% rate of success.

"It is in our national interest to have a field operable unit that can safely dispose of chemical warfare agents and other dangerous chemicals on the front lines in a timely manner," said Darrel Johnston, senior program manager at Southwest Research Institute chemistry and chemical engineering division, which developed the system.

How does it work?

The machine works in conjunction with the Tactical Plasma Arc Chemical Warfare Agents Destruction System (PACWADS), a thermal treatment system already in testing phase for use by US military.

The PACWADS, a similar system already under testing, uses high-temperature from a plasma torch to convert highly toxic chemicals into relatively harmless components, and then uses a water-based capture process to eliminate the last traces of any contaminants.

The latest system gets rid of the water scrubber and connects the new soil-scrubber, which directly captures and converts toxic CWA decomposition products and acid gases into non-hazardous salts.

What is left is just non-hazardous soil that can be safely returned to the environment. As of now the machine has only been tested indoor but Darpa plans to test it against actual CWAs in the coming months and possibly make it part of standard military vehicles for the US army in future.

Recently scientists had developed a biological shield to protect against chemical weapons like sarin and mustard gas. While this Darpa technology cannot perform the same function it can be extremely helpful in combing operations by military post any chemical attacks or even chemicals gas leaks.