Device that rapidly detects nerve agents named one of 'greatest army inventions' for 2003

06/22/04

PITTSBURGH, June 22 Pittsburgh-based Agentase, LLC's Nerve Agent Sensor was named one of the 10 "Greatest Army Inventions" of the past year by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. The Sensor is a hand-held device that rapidly changes color in the presence of a contaminant such as sarin, one of many nerve agents that are feared to be used in chemical warfare or terrorist attack. The invention is based on research performed by Alan J. Russell, Ph.D., professor of surgery and professor of petroleum and chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and was funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

The team being recognized includes Dr. Russell, who also is director of the University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine; Stephen J. Lee, Ph.D., and Robert Campbell, Ph.D., both of the U.S. Army Research Office, a part of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory; Larry Pollack of DTRA; and Keith LeJeune, Ph.D., a former student of Dr. Russell's and chief executive officer of Agentase, which he and Dr. Russell co-founded. They will receive the award at a ceremony June 23 at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in McLean,Va.

Dr. Russell's research has focused on the interface between enzymes and materials like polymers. As such, the Agentase Nerve Agent Sensor makes use of the pH-dependent catalytic activity of enzymes that have been embedded in a polymer sponge-like material. If contamination is detected, within seconds the sponge changes color from yellow to red.

Beyond its high sensitivity to nerve agents, the Nerve Agent Sensor also is resistant to environmental factors, such as high temperatures, and interference from other compounds. It has a two- to three-year shelf life and is compatible with all testing surfaces. The sensor already is in use in Iraq.

Nominations for the U.S. Army Greatest Inventions Program were submitted from across the Army laboratory community and evaluated by soldier teams from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and active U.S. Army divisions. The entries were judged based on their impact on Army capabilities, potential benefit outside the Army and their inventiveness.

Other inventions being recognized include a Portable Omni-Directional Well Camera System developed by Fort Belvoir in Virginia that is designed to inspect wells, underground caves and vertical passages that are unfit or unsafe for humans; and the Golden Hour Container developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute in Silver Spring, Md., which transports red blood cells without the need for batteries, ice or electricity.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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