Monday, May 7, 2012

ECBC’s Detection Engineering Branch Continues Partnership with Japan Ministry of Defense to Improve Chemical Agent Detector

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) Detection Engineering Branch (DEB) and the Japan Ministry of Defense (MOD), Technical Research and Development Institute, Advanced Defense Technology Center (TRDI-ADTeC) have continued to partner on a Cooperative Research Project to improve an existing chemical agent detector.

The two partners agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March 2008, with objectives to cooperatively research, design, fabricate and test a chemical agent detector prototype. Entitled the Palm-sized Automated Chemical Agent Detector (PACAD), the prototype is based on the chemistry of the U.S. M256A1 Chemical Agent Detector and Japanese expertise in microfluidic, electro-optical, and miniaturization technologies.

The project was extended in April 2011 by way of an approved Amendment to the PACAD MOU to provide for additional time for both sides to address the unexpected results observed in testing. This allowed ECBC and TRDI-ADTeC to further their efforts to develop and test the PACAD prototype and continue the strong cooperative relationship between the two organizations. At the last meeting of the ECBC and TRDI-ADTeC PACAD Teams in March 2012, both sides agreed to continue efforts for the rest of Amendment One of the PACAD MOU, which ends March 2013.

As part of the activities under Amendment One of the PACAD MOU, DEB has hosted various activities at Aberdeen Proving Ground (Edgewood Area), Maryland. Representatives of TRDI-ADTeC and their contractor visited ECBC from September-October 2011 to support cooperative testing of the PACAD prototype. For nearly seven weeks, the team of Japanese scientists and technical officials worked alongside ECBC personnel, providing technical expertise on the PACAD prototype and supporting data collection and analysis aspects of the project.

The purpose of this testing was to evaluate the current hardware and software performance for the PACAD prototype. The collection and analysis of the extensive chemical agent test data required cooperation from both sides.

“An interesting part of the lengthy testing period was that the ECBC team had ample opportunity to interact with the Japanese visitors on a personal level,” said U.S. Lead PACAD Project Engineer Michael Palko. In preparation for testing and also due to changes in TRDI-ADTeC project personnel, the first week of their visit to ECBC included meetings devoted to ensuring the visitors’ safety and familiarization with procedures for testing at ECBC and solidifying the partner relationships to ensure continued project continuity and successful completion of the PACAD testing.

“All the project members worked together so well, and it was particularly satisfying to see the positive interaction between the visitors and ECBC Lab personnel. I think everyone involved really enjoyed collectively working together in this unique capacity to meet the test goals of the project,” Palko said.

Following the testing phase of the project, members of the ECBC PACAD Project Team traveled to Japan in December 2011 to meet with the TRDI-ADTeC team to conduct preliminary review of the test results, evaluate the current level of capability, and determine the next steps in the project. The teams also began compiling the recent test results with previous testing results into a required Joint Final Report for final submission to their necessary agencies.

In March 2012, ECBC hosted the TRDI-ADTeC team to review and finalize test results before reporting the current status of the PACAD Project to the Joint Steering Committee (JSC), co-chaired by Dr. James Baker, ECBC Associate Director and U.S. Technical Project Officer, and the Director of TRDI-ADTeC. ECBC also proposed Joint Follow-on efforts to continue the U.S.-Japan working relationship.

“Working on a project like this has been a wonderful experience for the Detection Engineering Branch,” said Dr. Baker. “I hope that we find other projects that will allow us to collaborate with the Japanese to capitalize on both of our strengths and continue this relationship.”

Additional testing is planned for the upcoming year at the Japan MOD Chemical School, which members of the ECBC PACAD Project Team plan to observe. Both ECBC and TRDI-ADTeC agreed upon dates and locations for additional meetings to prepare for project close-out, including the Joint Final Report, and to discuss possible Follow-on efforts.

“ECBC and TRDI personnel have developed an excellent working relationship during the execution of the PACAD Program,” U.S. PACAD Project Manager and Detection Engineering Branch Chief Bill Argiropoulos said. “The synergy that has developed between the two Centers creates an environment of win-win cooperative knowledge sharing.” Another practical benefit of a cooperative research and development project is that by sharing and exchanging technical information, partners also share the cost. In the case of the PACAD, the U.S. shared the technology behind the M256A1 Chemical Agent Detector, Japan led the development of the PACAD prototype, and the U.S. led the testing of the PACAD Prototype.

“Although the project has involved some unique situations and challenges, the strong working relationships established during the project have allowed the team to overcome these matters to continue successful cooperation,” Palko said.

“All international efforts require extra care and attention because of language barriers and cultural barriers,” said Baker. “I think that the Detection Engineering Branch has really gone the extra mile to make sure that this project is a success and they deserve a lot of credit for that.”

The current PACAD project, as outlined in the MOU, is scheduled to close out by March 2013. Both ECBC and TRDI-ADTeC are currently planning possible Joint Follow-on efforts and are working towards a path forward for the PACAD Project.

In addition to the PACAD project, ECBC and TRDI-ADTeC have maintained a working relationship under higher level International Agreements for explorative discussions of other areas of mutual interest and possible collaboration regarding future Chemical and Biological defense technology.

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