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New Method Can Identify Chemical Warfare Agents More Easily

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A new method for extracting, enriching and identifying chemical warfare agents from oils and other organic liquids could help government officials and homeland security agencies protect civilians more effectively from their deadly effects.

The method, published in Journal of Chromatography A, uses nanoparticles to capture the chemicals.

Finding trace amounts of a chemical warfare agent in a sample can be challenging, especially if the agent and the liquid it is in are both water-repellant, which is often the case. In the new study, researchers from the Defence Research and Development Establishment in India developed a method that overcomes this challenge using iron oxide nanoparticles.

“Our research is an advancement in the state-of-the-art analytical techniques needed to verify the agents used in the field, to save mankind from the menace of chemical warfare agents,” said D. K. Dubey, corresponding author of the study.

The researchers decorated iron oxide nanoparticles with a substance called poly methacyrlic acid-co-ehtylene glycol dimethacrylate. This made the particles more “sticky,” helping them attach more easily to the chemical warfare agent particles in the samples. They tweaked different aspects of the extraction method and eventually were able to identify the agents at low concentrations of about 0.1 micrograms per milliliter.

“Extracting hydrophobic chemicals, like these agents, from a hydrophobic background, like organic liquids, is a tough challenge to achieve analytically,” said Dr. Dubey. “But efficient and sensitive analytical methods are pivotal in the early detection and identification of toxic agents, so we wanted to take on this challenge.”

The new method allows the efficient identification of chemical warfare agents in organic liquids. The researchers hope the method will be helpful for the international community involved in verifying and preventing the use of chemical weapons.

Read more at the Journal of Chromatography A: Analysis of chemical warfare agents in organic liquid samples with magnetic dispersive solid phase extraction and gas chromatography mass spectrometry for verification of the chemical weapons convention.

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