How butterflies can detect deadly chemical weapon agents
Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for our nation's warfighters. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.
Managed by DTRA CB's Brian Pate, Ph.D., researchers at the U.S. Air Force Academy demonstrated that analyzing light reflected from the scales of a butterfly wing may fill a critical capability gap for our service members. Currently, only expensive, non-portable instrumentation exists for the required sensitivity of certain CWA. Other tools, such as colorimetric and nanomaterial methods show promise, however, they pose challenges for long-term field use such as inadequate sensitivity or sensor poisoning.