ISU Headlines

IAC continues work to neutralize nuclear, chemical, biological weapons

Posted February 1, 2008

The Idaho State University Idaho Accelerator Center (IAC) has received an additional $1.8 million to continue to develop technology using small accelerator detection systems for the detection and neutralization of chemical, biological and fissionable (nuclear) weapons or weapons materials.

This new funding adds to the $4 million already received from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.

The project features several major components. For one, the researchers are developing small, portable accelerator systems that could be used to detect fissionable, chemical and biological materials. These systems would be small enough to be transported on the back of a pickup truck.

“It’s the kind of technology the Department of Defense might sometime use in the field,” said Douglas Wells, Ph.D., project director and director of the IAC.

The researchers are also trying to develop accelerators to be used to identify and track where fissionable materials have been developed. Potentially, in the case of an attack or if materials for developing weapons were found, accelerators could be used to help quickly and accurately identify where to retaliate or whom to hold responsible.

In addition, this funding continues to support ISU associate professor of biological sciences professor Linda DeVeaux, Ph.D., and colleagues who are studying “bio-threat reduction,” determining ways to neutralize or to determine the radiation resistance of bacteria and other microbes. Already, DeVeaux and co-researchers have discovered the most radiation resistant microbes known to science. These efforts were widely publicized in the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

“Our entire congressional delegation has supported this project and they deserve credit for helping to get this important defense work funded,” Wells said.

ISU faculty and staff from the IAC and departments of physics, chemistry and biology departments are all working on the project.

Accelerators are machines that speed up molecules, sub-atomic particles and elementary particles such as electrons and protons. IAC accelerators can deliver as much as 44 million volts, and are used for basic scientific and applied research as well as for development of a variety of high-tech industrial applications.