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Sealed Container Content Identification


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Chem Bio_defense 

OBJECTIVE: To develop a compact and rugged, computer-aided device for use by chemical-biological defense forces that is capable of identifying the contents of liquid-filled containers while making contact with the container or at short stand-off without having to drill or otherwise penetrate the container. 

DESCRIPTION: The Department of Defense (DoD) has the need for a ruggedized, handheld device supported by a compact (smartphone or similar) platform that will permit battlefield chemical-biological defense forces to rapidly and non-invasively assess the contents of liquid filled containers. These containers could include bottles, cans, artillery shells, industrial containers (to include 55 gallon drums), or storage barrels made of glass, plastic, or metal of various thicknesses. Research was conducted nearly two decades ago to address this need using a swept-frequency acoustic interferometry (SFAI) system among other approaches. Although testing of prototype units was encouraging, the technical approach never transitioned to operational or commercial usage. The DoD seeks to leverage research investments in nondestructive evaluation (NDE) and testing and other related fields over the past two decades to pursue a solution to this need. A parallel effort to the acoustic interferometry system resulted in the current commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Ortec instrument that utilizes a neutron spectroscopy approach. Solutions that utilize nuclear materials and/or nuclear radiation will not be considered under this topic. Solutions must be oriented on the development of automatic algorithms and related technologies so the user does not need to perform data interpretations in battlefield settings. Solutions will address challenges associated to varying wall thicknesses of the containers and mixtures contained within the containers. The portable device should be powered by existing, rechargeable batteries and capable of continuous operation for a minimum of one hour without having to change or charge the batteries. 

PHASE I: Develop a computer-aided technology system design that meets the stated objectives listed above. Demonstrate a pre-prototype system on a laptop or smaller platform that can automatically identify at least six liquid chemicals (chemical agent simulants, explosive simulants, and common toxic industrial chemicals and fuels) within sealed containers within 1 minute and with a 90% probability of success. In addition, demonstrate proof-of-concept with a 2- or 3-component mixture. Identify additional automated algorithms and/or technologies that could be implemented in the Phase II prototype system. 

PHASE II: Develop a prototype, computer-aided chemical identification system on a ruggedized, handheld device supported by a compact platform (smartphone or similar) that will meet the requirements defined above and permit usage in battlefield settings. Demonstrate the device to identify the 100 likely chemical agents and precursors along with over 20 common non-hazardous liquids in glass, plastic, and metal containers in less than 1 minute and with a 95% probability of success. In addition, potential surface interferents (dirt, corrosion, etc) should be considered. IF the device must be trained for a library of chemicals, then the device should indicate with a 95% probability of success when it is tested on a liquid that is included in the 'trained' database and a 90% probability of success in identifying that the liquid is an unknown, not in the 'trained' database. 

PHASE III: The proposed technology has potential use across the Department of Defense to assess the contents of sealed, liquid-filled containers and thus speeding the assessment of required responses. In addition to being highly valuable to the chemical and biological defense community, the same device can be utilized by first responders to evaluate and confirm container contents. 


Sinha, Dipen N., and Gregory Kaduchak (2001) Noninvasive Determination of Sound Speed and Attenuation in Liquids, Modern Acoustical Techniques for the Measurement of Mechanical Properties, Vol. 39. Academic Press, September 2001.

Ortec (2015) PINS3-CF Brochure,

Sinha, Dipen N., Kendall N. Springer, Wei Han, David C. Lizon, and Shulim Kogan (1997). Applications of swept-frequency acoustic interferometer for nonintrusive detection and identification of chemical warfare compounds, Los Alamos National Laboratory Report No. LA-UR-97-3113, December 1, 1997.


KEYWORDS: Ultrasound, Electromagnetics, Nondestructive Evaluation, Nondestructive Testing, Chemical Identification 

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