Low-Volatility Agent Permeation Verification and Validation Program

Award Year 

Soldiers and civilians, including scientists, law enforcement, first responders, and agricultural and industrial workers, rely on personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from dangerous chemicals. It is impossible to fully evaluate the suitability and safety of any clothing or PPE without reliable data to describe how well the item excludes chemical contaminants. Accurate permeation testing is an essential component of any comprehensive safety assessment of clothing and PPE. Traditional test methods for PPE are (more) vaporbased, and yet many contaminants—including the nerve agent VX and some pesticides—have low volatility and do not readily emit vapor. The hazard from such agents arises from human contact with liquid. Dr. Terrence D’Onofrio, a research chemist at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), discovered that traditional, vaporbased methods for testing permeation were not suitable for such low-volatility contaminants, and could yield unreliable and dangerously misleading results. To solve this problem, he invented and patented the low-volatility agent permeation (LVAP) test method and apparatus. LVAP is the first contact-based method capable of accurately quantifying the permeation hazard of low-volatility contaminants through clothing and protective equipment. The potential contact hazard is measured under rigorous environmental control and standardized contact pressure. The standardized contact pressure enables test data comparison to operational scenarios, such as a person grasping a contaminated item. In order to effectively transfer this technology, Dr. D’Onofrio initiated a verification and validation (V&V) process within the test and evaluation (T&E) community. He served as the technical lead and the main driving force behind the technology transfer, leading the V&V effort to document the precision and accuracy of the LVAP test method standard. During this standardization and transfer process, Dr. D’Onofrio initiated discussions with representatives from all four service branches, joint offices, and the Deputy Under Secretary of the Army for Test and Evaluation (DUSA-TE) to ensure that their needs were incorporated. Approval of the test apparatus and method by the DUSA-TE was essential for the technology to be adopted by the T&E community; this ensures that the technology transfer benefits can flow to all users of PPE—military and civilian alike. The transition of this method to an official T&E standard closed a significant, longstanding gap in protection research and testing efforts. LVAP provides additional confidence for laboratory results and standardized the methodology for low-volatility threats. Ultimately, this capability will benefit protection programs for the warfighter that rely on T&E data to make programmatic and milestone decisions. Currently, the LVAP system is in use at several DoD-associated facilities in support of Programs of Record (POR). The technology is also broadly applicable to protection efforts in law enforcement, industrial and agricultural fields. LVAP also has won several awards for transition, innovation, and standardization.  Winner: Dr. Terrence D'Onofrio Contact: Dr. Terence D’Onofrio, (410) 436-1936, (less)