• Reversal: UN now calls for identifying perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria

    The UN Security Council on Friday has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for identifying those using chlorine and other chemical weapons in attacks in Syria. Friday’s resolution is a reversal of Russia’s position, and another indication that Russia is distancing itself from Assad. In 2013, when the Security Council passed the resolution authorizing the removal of chemical weapons from Syria, Russia – which, with Iran, is Assad’s main supporter – conditioned its support for the resolution on adding to it a clause which would explicitly prohibit Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) or the UN from determining who is responsible for chemical attacks in Syria, if such attacks continue. The Friday resolution fills a gap in attributing blame for chemical weapons attacks, allowing for the perpetrators of such attacks to be brought to justice.

  • U.K. conducted chemical weapons experiments on “unconsenting participants”

    In 1963 the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s Porton Down military science center carried out the first of a series of tests to release zinc cadmium sulphide in the atmosphere over Norwich. It was one of many examples of secret experiments conducted in the name of military research during the 1950s and 1960s, now chronicled for the first time in a new book. The book provides a comprehensive overview of state military scientific research on chemical and biological weapons by Britain, the United States, and Canada since the First World War. Between 1946 and 1976, “Britain was turned into a large-scale open-air laboratory; her people into an army of unconsenting participants,” the author writes.

  • New guidance on estimating area affected by a chlorine release issued

    Arlington, Virginia-based Chlorine Institute (CI) has issued a new version of Pamphlet 74 - Guidance On Estimating the Area Affected By A Chlorine Release. The new version, Edition 6, dated June 2015, reflects CI’s collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Security Analysis Center and incorporates information obtained from the DHS “Jack Rabbit I” chlorine release field tests.  

  • More evidence emerges of ISIS’s use of chemical weapons

    A joint investigation by two independent organizations has found that ISIS has begun to use weapons filled with chemicals against Kurdish forces and civilians in both Iraq and Syria. ISIS is notorious for its skill in creating and adapting weapons and experts are concerned with the group’s access to chemical agents and its experiments with and the use of these agents as weapons.

  • Detecting illegal, designer drugs from a single fingerprint

    An innovative technology can detect the presence of a range of illegal and designer drugs from a single fingerprint, which could be a valuable new tool in bringing drug dealers and other criminals to justice. The technology, known as Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MALDI-MSI), can detect the presence of cocaine, THC (the chemical present in marijuana), heroin, amphetamine and other designer drugs from a fingerprint.

  • Assad is still using chemical weapons. What will it take to stop him?

    While the Syrian conflict has been perpetually overshadowed in the headlines by recent events such as the possibility of a Grexit and the Chinese stock market crash, two recent developments regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons have nearly managed to refocus international attention on Syria. First, on June 17th the House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a hearing on the Assad regime’s use of chlorine barrel bombs. Second, U.S. intelligence agencies publicly reported this week that they expect another attack by the regime using chemical weapons beyond chlorine bombs. In particular, the Syrian government is suspected of maintaining stocks of sarin and VX gas.

  • Better detection of diseases, fraudulent art, chemical weapons, and more

    From airport security detecting explosives to art historians authenticating paintings, society’s thirst for powerful sensors is growing. Given that, few sensing techniques can match the buzz created by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Discovered in the 1970s, SERS is a sensing technique prized for its ability to identify chemical and biological molecules in a wide range of fields. It has been commercialized, but not widely, because the materials required to perform the sensing are consumed upon use, relatively expensive and complicated to fabricate. That may soon change.

  • Nano-coated mesh captures oil but lets water through

    The unassuming piece of stainless steel mesh does not look like a very big deal, but it could make a big difference for future environmental cleanups. Water passes through the mesh but oil does not, thanks to a nearly invisible oil-repelling coating on its surface. In tests, researchers mixed water with oil and poured the mixture onto the mesh. The water filtered through the mesh to land in a beaker below. The oil collected on top of the mesh, and rolled off easily into a separate beaker when the mesh was tilted. The nano-coated mesh could clean oil spills for less than $1 per square foot.

  • Assad regime continues to employ chemical weapons

    Syrian government troops had used chemical weapons against civilians and rebels on many occasions, culminating in an August 2013 deadly chemical attack against civilians in Ghouta, a Damascus suburb. That attack killed more than 1,200 people. Syria joined the OPCW in 2013 in the face of a threat of a U.S. military attack, admitting to owning about 1,300 tons of chemical weapons and ingredients for making toxic gas and nerve agents, and agreeing to give up this stockpile and destroy, under supervision, its chemical weapons production infrastructure. Western intelligence services have always suspected that Assad has not come clean, and that the regime still keeps secret chemical stockpiles. The continued use of chemical weapons in Syria means that the Assad regime agreed to refrain from developing new chemical weapons, but not from using existing inventory.

  • Strong evidence that Syrian government used chemicals in attacks on three cities

    Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs filled with cylinders of chlorine gas on three towns in Northern Syria in mid-April 2014, Human Rights Watch said earlier this week. These attacks used an industrial chemical as a weapon, an act banned by the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons that Syria joined in October 2013. The Syrian government is the only party to the conflict with helicopters and other aircraft.

  • Metal-organic framework quickly destroys toxic nerve agents

    First used 100 years ago during the First World War, deadly chemical weapons continue to be a challenge to combat. Scientists have developed a robust new material, inspired by biological catalysts, which is extraordinarily effective at destroying toxic nerve agents that are a threat around the globe. The material, a zirconium-based metal-organic framework (MOF), degrades in minutes one of the most toxic chemical agents known to mankind: Soman (GD), a more toxic relative of sarin. Computer simulations show the MOF should be effective against other easy-to-make agents, such as VX.

  • Meals served to Turkey’s president Erdogan tested for poison

    Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has implemented strict new measures to protect his personal security. One of these measures: Every meal he is served – both at home and abroad — is rigorously tested to make sure it does not contain any poisonous materials inserted by a would-be assassin. Dr. Cevdet Erdol, Erdogan’s personal physician, said that a special food analysis laboratory will be built at Erdogan’s lavish presidential palace to make sure all his food is safe to eat. “It’s usually not through bullets that prominent figures are being assassinated these days,” Erdol told the Hurriyet newspaper on Tuesday.

  • Color-changing film detects chemical weapons

    In today’s world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). Scientists are reporting progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs — an advance that could help save lives and hold aggressors accountable.

  • Turning deadly chemical warfare agents into harmless soil

    Destroying chemical warfare agents in bulk is a challenge for the military and international community. Current methods of eradication, such as incineration or hydrolysis, create toxic waste which requires further processing. The logistics required to transport large stockpiles from storage to a disposal site can be risky and expensive. DARPA is seeking portable system that turns stockpiles of chemical warfare agents into dirt or other safe organic compounds without generating hazardous waste.

  • New acoustic sensor for chemical, biological detection

    Testing for ovarian cancer or the presence of a particular chemical could be almost as simple as distinguishing an F sharp from a B flat, thanks to a new microscopic acoustic device that has been dramatically improved by scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory. The device, known as a surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensor, detects frequency changes in waves that propagate through its crystalline structure. This makes it ideal for detecting the presence of chemicals or biomarkers present in a liquid or gas.