New Color-Changing Materials Discovered for Chemical Threat Detection

Jennifer Soliz, Ph.D., pulverizes self-indicating colormetric response materials with a mortar and pestle. (Photo Credit: CCDC Chemical Biological Center photo by Shawn Nesaw) (Photo Credit: Jack Bunja)

Jennifer Soliz, Ph.D., pulverizes self-indicating colormetric response materials with a mortar and pestle. (Photo Credit: CCDC Chemical Biological Center photo by Shawn Nesaw) (Photo Credit: Jack Bunja)

April 9, 2019 | Source: U.S. Army, Jack Bunja, 1 April 2019

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- A plume of unidentified smoke fills the air ahead of ground units on the battlefield. Immediately, a gray drone deploys, navigating the atmosphere to investigate the plume. As the drone returns, it's no longer gray. It's orange.

That color change is due to a new coating on the drone that, when exposed to a chemical agent, instantly changes colors, alerting Warfighters to a threat compound.

The notional scenario above illustrates the potential of colorimetric detection. As Soldiers come in contact with potential toxic chemical threats in the field, they need to know what they are dealing with so they can take the proper action. Based on the needs of Soldiers, scientists are developing new methods of chemical threat detection to keep Soldiers safe.

One of the newest breakthroughs in colorimetric detection is the development of self-indicating colorimetric response materials, inorganic compounds that selectively detect chemical agents and opioids through chemical reactions when exposed to specific compounds, prompting an immediate color change.