• New optical device detects drugs, bomb-making chemicals

    Scientists searching for traces of drugs, bomb-making components, and other chemicals often shine light on the materials they’re analyzing. This approach is known as spectroscopy, and it involves studying how light interacts with trace amounts of matter. One of the more effective types of spectroscopy is infrared absorption spectroscopy, which scientists use to sleuth out performance-enhancing drugs in blood samples and tiny particles of explosives in the air.

  • A spate of acid attacks in London is part of an international problem

    A series of five acid attacks in one night in London has created a moment for the British government to take a more public stance on this growing problem. Available statistics suggest a sharp rise in attacks with corrosive substances in the United Kingdom. Data produced by the Metropolitan Police reveal that there were 455 crimes involving corrosive substances in London alone in 2016. Dozens of incidents have been reported so far this year. It is also clear that acid violence is a global problem. Acid Survivors Trust International reports a significant number of attacks in India, Colombia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Uganda, and Cambodia. There is thus a need to think about how to identify and support good practice internationally – in terms of prevention and supporting victims. This can help the efficient sharing of expertise and resources globally.

  • New class of chemical vapor sensors

    An interdisciplinary team of scientists demonstrated that monolayer 2D Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDs) — atomically thin semiconductors — undergo a change from semiconductor-to-metallic phase when exposed to airborne chemical vapors. The team validated optical and electronic evidence of the phase transition and how the behavior can be used to create an entirely new class of chemical vapor sensors. This new class of instruments are potentially more sensitive than current state-of-the-art models, and selective to specific nerve agents and explosive compounds which are of great concern on today’s battlefields.

  • Decrease in lead exposure in early childhood likely responsible for drop in crime rate

    Exposure to lead in the preschool years significantly increases the chance that children will be suspended or incarcerated during their school careers, according to new research. Conversely, a drop in exposure leads to less antisocial behavior and thus may well be a significant factor behind the drop in crime over the past few decades.

  • Oil spill puzzle solved: Oil-eating bacteria consumed the Deepwater Horizon oil plume

    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is one of the most studied spills in history, yet scientists have not agreed on the role of microbes in eating up the oil. Now, a research team has identified all of the principal oil-degrading bacteria as well as their mechanisms for chewing up the many different components that make up the released crude oil.

  • U.S. warns Assad over planned chemical attack

    The United States has charged that the Assad regime was preparing to launch another large-scale chemical weapons attack on Sunni Syrians — warning that the Syrian regime would “pay a heavy price” if it went ahead with the attack. The White House, in a statement released late Monday, said that the United States had noticed Syrian military preparations similar to those the Syrian military had undertaken ahead of the 4 April chemical attack which killed eighty-seven Syrian civilians.

  • Stacking countermeasures for layered defense against chemical, biological threats

    Just as we must protect computer systems against assaults in the form of viruses and trojans in the cyber world, we must protect our soldiers from a multitude of chemical and biological threats on the battlefield. No one countermeasure can mitigate every threat, which is why the Joint Science and Technology Office at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is developing a portfolio of novel capabilities and medical countermeasures to protect our troops.

  • Detecting and preventing the use of chemical weapons

    Like detectives looking for clues, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been working for nearly a decade on ways to identify the “fingerprints” of potential chemical threats. The ability to identify a particular agent and attribute its source is key to responding to and even preventing these threats.

  • New fabric coating could neutralize chemical weapons, save lives

    Chemical weapons are nightmarish. In a millisecond, they can kill hundreds, if not thousands. But, in a new study, scientists report that they have developed a way to adhere a lightweight coating onto fabrics that is capable of neutralizing a subclass of these toxins — those that are delivered through the skin. The life-saving technique could eventually be used to protect soldiers and emergency responders.

  • New evidence shows pattern of Assad regime’s use of nerve agents

    New evidence supports the conclusion that Syrian government forces have used nerve agents on at least four occasions in recent months: on 4 April 2017, in a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least ninety-two people, and on three other occasions in December 2016 and March 2017, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. These attacks are part of a broader pattern of Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons. The attacks are widespread and systematic, and in some cases have been directed against the civilian population. As part of the evidence showing these attacks have become widespread and systematic, the detailed 48-page report identifies the three different systems being used by the Assad regime to deliver chemical weapons.

  • France: We have proof Assad ordered chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun

    Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s foreign minister, said Wednesday that France’s intelligence services have evidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack on a Sunni village earlier this month. The Syrian military’s attack on Khan Sheikhun killed eighty-six. British and Turkish scientists, examining injured victims and performing autopsies on those killed, found evidence of both sarin - a nerve gas - and chlorine.

  • Syrian defector: Assad still has hundreds of tons of chemical weapons stockpiled

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad circumvented a 2013 deal to dismantle his chemical weapons stockpile by failing to declare the full extent of his arsenal, Syria’s former chemical weapons research chief. Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat, who served as the head of chemical warfare in a top Syrian military unit before defecting in 2013, said that Assad had not declared large amounts of sarin and its precursor chemicals.

  • Soil-based scrubber turns deadly chemicals into harmless dirt

    A DARPA program that is developing a field-deployable system for onsite neutralization of bulk stores of chemical warfare agents (CWA) has successfully demonstrated a novel waterless soil-scrubbing technology that safely neutralized toxic chemicals simulating sarin, soman, and mustard agents. The technology demonstrated greater than 99.9999 percent removal of the simulants, without creating any hazardous waste by-products.

  • WH report: The Assad regime's use of chemical weapons on 4 April 2017

    The White House on Tuesday released a 4-page report, prepared by the National Security Council, which contains declassified U.S. intelligence on the 4 April chemical weapons attack in Syria. The document calls Russia’s claim that the source of the gas was a rebels’ storage facility a “false narrative,” accusing Russia of “shielding” a client state which has used weapons of mass destruction.

  • By insisting Assad must go, the West has prolonged the Syrian conflict

    The most enthusiastic Western advocates of removing Assad form a liberal tendency and have been arguing for some form of intervention in Syria ever since the war began in earnest. They are opposed by more realist voices, who exhort them to remember the lessons of Iraq before getting militarily involved. Those on this side point to Syria’s fractured and often radical opposition, the regime’s formidable and battle-hardened forces, and the risks of starting a proxy conflict between the world’s great powers. In combination, these two tendencies have landed United States and United Kingdom foreign policy in an awkward gap between ends and means: Assad must go, but the military means required to remove him are off limits. It feels good to demand that a brutal dictator should no longer be allowed to rule, but insisting on it while failing to back it up with action has helped to prolong unimaginable suffering. Assad is clearly despicable, but the only atrocities worse than those his government has already committed are those yet to come. There are two ways to avert them: either Assad is deposed, probably via U.S.-led military intervention, or some political accord is struck to allow him to stay in exchange for a permanent ceasefire.