Release Date
August 23rd, 2023
Open Date
September 20th, 2023
Due Date(s)
October 18th, 2023
Close Date
October 18th, 2023
Topic No.


Blister Chemical Warfare Agent Disclosure Spray System


Department of DefenseN/A


Type: SBIRPhase: BOTHYear: 2023


The Department of Defense (DoD) is seeking proposals for the development of a Blister Chemical Warfare Agent Disclosure Spray System. The objective of this project is to create a system that can visually disclose the location of blister chemical warfare agent (CWA) contamination on surfaces. The system should be able to identify levels of blister CWA below 0.01 g/m2 and enable visual mapping of the contamination in less than 5 minutes. The color change indicating the presence of blister CWA should remain visible for at least 10 minutes. The system should be a small handheld sprayer that does not require an external power source and weighs less than 5 pounds. It should also be able to operate in temperatures ranging from 0-45 °C and cover at least 50 square feet of surface. The system should not interfere with standard DoD detectors or create hazards when exposed to standard decontaminants. The project will be conducted in three phases: proof of concept, system feasibility, and prototype optimization. The technology developed in this project will have applications for both military decontamination operations and civilian incidents involving hazardous materials.



OBJECTIVE: Develop a chemical warfare agent (CWA) disclosure spray system with the capability to visually disclose the location of blister CWA contamination on surfaces.

DESCRIPTION: Warfighters need to remove blister CWA contamination as quickly as possible and to reduce the logistical burden to warfighters for decontamination processes, perform a more targeted decontamination process through visualization and mapping of blister CWA contamination on surfaces (equipment, tactical vehicles, and weapons). There also is need to check surfaces post decontamination to confirm the area has been decontaminated to at or below detectable levels of blister CWA contamination. While there is previous research into colorimetric blister CWA mapping/detection, additional research and development is needed to improve sensitivity, ease of use, increase pot life, increase shelf-life, and incorporate these elements into a spray type application. This blister CWA disclosure spray prototype will enhance visual contamination mapping capabilities for both decontamination assurance and/or mapping to determine extent of contamination on surfaces to decrease the logistical burden to warfighters conducting decontamination operations and assure that the decontamination operations were complete, and the item is safe to use.

The objective of this project is the design and development of a system consisting of a fully formulated spray or other form factor and associated applicator capable of applying a liquid, foam or other medium on a surface to visually (human eye readable) indicate location of blister CWA contamination. The final prototype must identify less than 0.01 g/m2 levels of blister CWA and enable visual mapping of the location of blister CWA on surfaces in less than 5 minutes, post-application, in complex surface environments. The color change must remain visible for more than 10 minutes. It is anticipated a simple colorimetric reaction will not be sufficient to meet the sensitivity goal, and a description of how the sensitivity goal will be met is required in the proposal. The positive indication should be specific for blister CWA with low to no potential for false positive indication or environmental interference. Reaction schemes that produce a change in IR, colorimetric, fluorescent, or a combination of these responses for visual change/indication is acceptable. Using excitation light sources (e.g. flashlights) or other external means for visualization are acceptable. Solutions that require sampling, instrumentation, detectors or paper-based detection to measure the contamination are not acceptable. The desired system for the purposes of this SBIR is envisioned to be a small hand held sprayer with a positive response for blister agents on surfaces, with potential follow on (if successful) for larger scale applicators and scaling. Other requirements include not requiring an outside (e.g., electric, fuel, battery) power source, all required components for warfighter use (including water, if applicable) will be included in the kit (i.e. kit should be ready to use as supplied) and will weigh less than 5 pounds (including reagents), need for warfighters to mix reagents should be minimized, should be will be able to operate from 0-45 °C, one kit will cover at least 50 feet2 of surface, will not interfere with standard DoD detectors (such as, M8 paper, M9 paper, M256A1, or JCAD), will not create a hazard when exposed to standard decontaminants (such as, hot soapy water, high test hypochlorite, M100, M295, M333, or RSDL), will have an estimated shelf life of at least 5 years when stored under climate controlled conditions, and will have a pot life of at least 6 hours after components are mixed, will not cause degradation of military relevant surfaces (such as, CARC, MOPP suit fabrics, etc.) when reagent is left on these materials for 12 hours, and will not impact performance of military filters (such as N95, M61, etc.).

PHASE I: Establish and demonstrate proof of concept for blister positive response indication/reaction by developing robust reaction and verify ability of chemistry to identify the presence of simulants of blister CWA (target blister CWA is sulfur mustard, HD) in solution with sensitivity of sub-microgram per milliliter. Estimate potential for positive response visual indication and specificity for simulant/agent on varying surface types and in varying environmental conditions. Estimate the logistical requirements of the proposed solution and how the requirements described above can be met.

PHASE II: Demonstrate system feasibility to include optimization of visual indicator, investigation of positive signal amplification, laboratory method validation, and user assessment. Verify ability of chemistry to identify the presence of HD in solution and on surfaces with sensitivity of sub-microgram per milliliter (solution) and less than 0.01 grams/m2 (surfaces). Verification of performance on surfaces will be conducted in multiple orientations of the test surface – horizontal, vertical and sloped at 45 degrees. Surfaces will be selected by the awardee and will be representative of military-relevant surfaces. Validate indication at sub-microgram/cm2 of HD. Live agent testing should be conducted as part of this phase of the work and will be conducted at an approved surety laboratory. Demonstrate how the requirements described above can be met. Provide a cost estimate per kit, primary cost drivers, and any anticipated supply chain issues. Scaling to work on sprayer and deliver 20 blister spray systems each containing the formulation, sprayer, and instructions for the warfighter.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: PHASE III: Continue development and optimization of the prototype including optimizing formulation, continued laboratory testing, and applicator design. Successfully conduct user assessments and incorporate user feedback into optimized system design. Investigate and report requirements for formulation and applicator scaled manufacture.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: This technology will be useful to civilian first responders for localizing contamination during civilian incidents.


  1. Hurst, C.G. et al. Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare - Vesicants. 2008.;
  2. Feng, W. et. al. Bifunctional Fluorescent Probes for the Detection of Mustard Gas and Phosgene. 2023. Anal. Chem. 2023, 95, 1755−1763.;
  3. Chemical Agent Disclosure Spray, Agentase C2.

KEYWORDS: vesicant; blister; HD; disclosure; decontamination; chemical warfare; hazardous materials