DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah — Understanding the big picture sometimes means understanding the small picture and you know you are really digging into the details when it takes building a custom test chamber to look beyond the world of the seen to the particle sized picture of the unseen.
The Miniature Aerosol Exposure Chamber is the perfect tool for biologists from the Biological Test Division at Dugway Proving Ground to examine the minutiae of microorganisms. The dissemination box creates aerosols in a controlled environment for testing biological particles. Biologist Angelo Madonna is part of the team that designed and developed the device. It was “designed by staff at Dugway because existing devices did not meet testing specifications,” said Madonna. The aerosol chamber is being used in preliminary tests for Dugway's Project 24 (P24).
Results from P24 will help biologists understand how to protect people all over the world from infectious diseases like COVID-19. “The goal of P24 is to build on the other bio testing division efforts to study and create a better understanding of SARS CoV2 sequencing,” said P24 Project Manager Damon Nicholson.
At the current stage of testing, scientists are using nonhazardous growth media— known as minimum essential media (MEM) in the chamber. MEM is used to grow microorganisms and is not harmful. Once testing ramps up, the chamber will be filled with SARS CoV2 for evaluation.
“This will lead to a better understanding of the concentrations of virus required to create a probability of identification in airborne sampling,” said Madonna.
Essentially, Madonna and his team created a controlled environment where they can sample the air for diseases so that one day a sensor can be used to check public areas and events in real time. Eventually, P24 will utilize a genomic alteration detection system to take the air samples. Samples, which resolve some of our biggest health and safety questions by literally pulling the answers out of thin air.
The technology being developed will one day be used by the Headquarters Department of the Army to protect Americans, to expand the Army’s understanding, and build on the investment it has already made in COVID-19 research.
“This unprecedented testing will have benefits that will impact not only the world of biology, but how we live our lives,” said Nicholson. Critical to this is developing a familiarization with commercially available technology and its capabilities.
The experts in the Biological Test Division make Dugway Proving Ground an ideal location for projects like this because of their determination to get results even if it means developing new technologies. Technology, expertise, and results that expand the big picture in the era of biological screening.