Home / Engineering on the Edge / Portable X-Ray Device for Destroying Chemical Weapons

Portable X-Ray Device for Destroying Chemical Weapons

As soon as the government in Syria agreed to give up its arsenal of chemical weapons, a logistical challenge was immediately presented: How do you safely consolidate and then destroy volatile compounds, particularly in a region still actively engaged in a civil war?

A new tabletop device that produces powerful x-rays might provide a solution in the future. The technology, developed by Y.K. Bae Corp. founder Young Bae, could potentially neutralize chemical and biological weapons, even while they are still safely in their containers.

Bae’s device shoots buckballs made of carbon atoms into an aluminum target at 60 miles per second, which temporarily places the balls into a state of warm dense matter. In this state, atoms are crushed together in such a way that electron shells fuse together, creating a Metastable Innershell Molecular State (MIMS). As pressure is relaxed, the atoms separate and produce x-rays.

The wavelength of the x-rays can be tuned to affect specific molecules to nullify, for instance, the toxicity of sarin. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency has expressed interest in the device, which could be used to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons. The agency has contracted with Y. K. Bae to scale up the device (with help from Los Alamos National lab). After that, research will focus on producing different x-ray wavelengths and channeling them into a narrow beam.

Having a portable method of destroying chemical weapons could help speed the elimination of these agents under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The U.S. has prohibited the transport of the chemicals, meaning that facilities for neutralizing them have to be built adjacent to storage facilities. Since the early 1970s, the U.S. has divested its chemical weapons by dumping them in the ocean, incineration, and chemical neutralization.

Source: Popular Science


About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.