Sensing and catalysed destruction of chemical warfare agents

Chemical warfare agents (CWA) can cause incapacitation and death within minutes of exposure to milligram quantities. They continue to be used in terrorist attacks and military conflict despite the best efforts of the international community. Recent international CWA clean-up efforts (e.g. the Salisbury incident) identified that locating CWA contamination, and remediating it to safe levels, is currently an expensive and time consuming activity.

Current decontamination solutions for CWAs rely upon broad spectrum reagents such as sodium hypochlorite bleach, which is relatively fast, effective and cheap, particularly in scenarios that require large areas of mass decontamination. However, bleach and similar products are highly corrosive and require large volumes of decontamination solution relative to the amount of agent. In addition to this, they don’t give any indication of resulting decontamination/detoxification or of any residual contamination.

Associate Professor Kellie Tuck, Monash University and Professor Michael Ward, University of Warwick, will develop innovative tools for the detection and destruction of environmental toxins including CWAs. The development of a single material that both indicates the presence of a toxin, and promotes its detoxification, is unprecedented and will significantly facilitate the clean-up process. It is anticipated that by incorporating such a material into specialised decontamination sprays and wipes for use in the field, there is the potential to reduce workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals during handling, application, monitoring and remediation programs.

Principle applicants

Kellie Tuck

Associate Professor Kellie Tuck

Associate Professor, School of Chemistry,
Monash University

Michael Ward

Professor Michael Ward

Head of Department, Department of Chemistry,
University of Warwick


Dr David Turner, Senior Lecturer, School of Chemistry, Monash University

Dr David Fox, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

Dr Jerry Piper, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick

Visiting Fellow:

Dr Genevieve Dennison, Defence Science and Technology Group, Melbourne, Australia