Because chemical and biological detectors may be used throughout the world, in some of the worst environments, they must be rigorously tested to ensure they can endure.
The recent test of the Aerosol and Vapor Chemical Agent Detector (AVCAD) in a chamber that encourages the growth of fungus may seem odd to those unfamiliar with testing at Dugway Proving Ground, but it’s one of many challenges required by MIL-STD810H.
Military Standard 810 was first published by the Department of Defense in 1961, designating how an item will be tested to ensure it can endure a variety of climates and conditions. All military services, and many civilian labs, adhere to this standard for military specifications.
AVCAD is the next step in miniaturized chemical detection, intended as the next generation chemical detector. It’s designed to detect, identify, alarm and report the presence of traditional and advanced vapors and aerosols. If adopted by the Department of Defense, AVCAD will be used by all services. Consequently, it must be reliable under many conditions, even in jungles where fungus appears on equipment almost overnight.
AVCAD has already been subjected to hot and dry conditions that replicate Sahara-like conditions, and will soon be subjected to extreme cold, heat and humidity that duplicates exposure to the ocean near the equator, cold and hot storage, freezing rain, blowing rain, blowing dust, solar radiation, altitude rapid decompression, and vibrations typical of transport by ship or truck.
No single AVCAD faces all these environments; rather, the challenges are divided into three similar groups: hot, cold and specialized environments, and one or more AVCAD face these challenges.
James Sorenson, a microbiologist with the Special Programs Division, applied a fungus cultivated in a lab to Petri dishes in the chamber where AVCAD will spend 28 days. A medium to encourage growth was lightly sprayed on AVCAD. After one week, the chamber is inspected to ensure the fungus is growing.
“Some fungus can interfere with electronics, so we make sure that growth doesn’t interfere with it,” Sorenson said.
The fungus chamber, the size of a large camping trailer, is used only for fungus tests, nothing else. “That way, we don’t cross-contaminate other chambers,” said Military Standard Engineering Technician A. J. Line. If for some reason the growth never takes, or stops within the required 28 days, the test begins anew, Line said.