• Oil spillsInexpensive super-absorbent material offers solution for ocean oil spills

    A super-absorbent material developed by Penn State scientists could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of oil spills on oceans and allow recovered oil to be refined normally. The synthetic material, called i-Petrogel, absorbs more than 40 times its weight in crude oil, and effectively stops the oil from spreading after a spill, according to the researchers.

  • The Russia connectionBritish spy chief warns Russia against covert activity after nerve-agent attack

    The head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service has warned the Kremlin not to underestimate the West following a nerve-agent attack on a retired double agent in England that he attributed to covert Russian activity. Alex Younger, head of the Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6, made the remarks on December 3 in a rare public speech – saying that Russia is in a state of “perpetual confrontation” with the West.

  • Chemical warfareQuick, precise method for detecting chemical warfare agents

    Sarin is a man-made nerve agent that can spread as a gas or liquid. According to the Center for Disease control, exposure to large doses will over-stimulate glands and muscles, and can lead to loss of consciousness or respiratory failure. Even small doses can cause a long list of distressing and dangerous symptoms. “Low-level nerve agent exposure leads to ambiguous signs and symptoms that cannot be easily discriminated from other conditions, which may result in a delay in treatment and permanent damage,” says an expert. “If trace amounts can be detected quickly, you can prevent permanent damage to human health.”

  • Chemical weaponsPreventing chemical weapons as sciences advance and converge

    Revolutionary advances in science and technology are threatening the ability of the Chemical Weapons Convention to prevent the development, possession and potential use of chemical weapons. Scientists warn of this increased chemical weapons risk, which is the result of rapid scientific change. Alarming examples of the dangers from chemical weapons have been seen recently in the use of industrial chemicals and the nerve agent sarin against civilians in Syria, and in the targeted assassination operations using VX nerve agent in Malaysia and novichok nerve agent in the U.K.

  • Skripal caseSalisbury poisoning suspect named as Russian colonel

    The real identity of one of the two Russians blamed by Britain for the Salisbury nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is Anatoly Chepiga, the investigative website Bellingcat says, adding that he was a decorated Russian colonel. Earlier this month, British prosecutors charged two Russians — identified as Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city of Salisbury earlier this year. The prosecutors said the two were undercover officers for Russian military intelligence, the GRU.

  • Chemical weaponsUN confirms 33 chemical attacks, constituting war crimes, by Syrian regime since 2013

    The United Nations reported Wednesday that the Assad regime in Syria continues to use chemical weapons against civilian targets, including three chlorine gas attacks on a rebel-held Damascus suburb and on Idlib province this year that constitute war crimes.

  • The Russia connectionU.K. charges Russians in novichok case, May says “not a rogue operation”

    British prosecutors have announced charges against two Russian men they believe poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a deadly nerve agent, and Prime Minister Theresa May says the government has concluded the suspects were officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency.

  • DetectionWiFi can detect weapons, bombs, chemicals in bags

    Ordinary WiFi can easily detect weapons, bombs and explosive chemicals in bags at museums, stadiums, theme parks, schools and other public venues, according to a new study. Researchers  demonstrated how this low-cost technology could help security screening at public venues like stadiums, theme parks and schools.

  • The Russia connectionU.S. imposing new sanctions on Russia for spy poisoning in U.K.

    The State Department says it will be implementing new sanctions on Russia as punishment for the March 2018 poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on British soil. The new sanctions, which will go into effect on 22 August, target export licenses of sensitive U.S. technologies and industrial equipment, such as electronics, calibration equipment, and gas turbine engines. Russia will also be given 90 days to comply with other demands, including allowing international inspectors into the country to ensure that no chemical or biological weapons exist there. If Moscow does not comply with the demands, a second round of sanctions could further downgrade diplomatic relations with Russia, or even restrict flights by Russian air carrier Aeroflot.

  • DetectionNew nerve gas detector made of a smartphone and Lego bricks

    Researchers have designed a way to sense dangerous chemicals using, in part, a simple rig consisting of a smartphone and a box made from Lego bricks, which could help first responders and scientists in the field identify deadly and difficult-to-detect nerve agents such as VX and sarin.

  • The Russia connectionBritish defense chief says Russian “attack” led to woman's death

    The residue of the poisonous chemical Novichock, which Russian intelligence agents used in early March in Salisbury, U.K., in an assassination attempt of a former Russian spy and his daughter, poisoned two residents from neighboring Amesbury, killing one of them. “The simple reality is that Russia has committed an attack on British soil which has seen the death of a British citizen,” Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

  • The Russia connectionBritish defense chief says Russian “attack” led to woman's death

    The residue of the poisonous chemical Novichock, which Russian intelligence agents used in early March in Salisbury, U.K., in an assassination attempt of a former Russian spy and his daughter, poisoned two residents of the town, killing one of them. “The simple reality is that Russia has committed an attack on British soil which has seen the death of a British citizen,” Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

  • Chemical weaponsNovichok: the deadly story behind the nerve agent

    By Alastair Hay

    Earlier this week, in the town of Salisbury, England, two people were poisoned accidentally by traces of the nerve agent Novichok, which Russian intelligence operatives used on 4 March 2018 in an attempt to assassinate former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, along with his daughter Yulia. Alastair Hay’s article was written on 20 March 2018. Why do these lethal chemical agents exist at all?

  • Chemical weaponsOmitted details from UN report implicate Syria, Iran in use of chemical weapons

    Details implicating Syria and Iran for a series of chemical weapons attacks in January and February were removed from a UN report that had been released last week. A UN commission investigating war crimes during the seven-year-old Syrian civil war uncovered evidence of six chemical weapons attacks perpetrated by the Assad regime between January and 7 April this year.

  • DetectionNew tool to detect deadly chemical weapon agents: Butterflies

    Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for U.S. soldiers. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.