Military, Defense, Law Enforcement


A recently published book, Future War [Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First-Century Warfare], written by Colonel John B. Alexander, is the most up-to-date document on this subject. The book covers all aspects of the current technology and is very well referenced.

  • Alexander, J.B., Future War [Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First-Century Warfare]
    St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, May, 1999, ISBN 0312194161


Sandia National Laboratories has been active in this area of foam technology. Some of the papers they have presented are listed here, along with the email address of the author:

Sandia National Laboratory has, at least, two patents pertaining to this technology:

Some other Sandia foam technology is listed on the Government Laboratories page of this site.

As an aside, this technology has been extended and patented — directed at very high expansion ratio foams for several purposes:

More recently Sandia, in conjunction with others, has developed a foaming system for the degradation of chemical and biological warfare agents, like VX, Soman, and mustard gas. Even anthrax can be eliminated using this technology — after an hour of treatment only one spore in 10,000,000 remains active. The development is part of the Department of Energy's Chemical and Biological Nonproliferation Program. The only published information was a small news article in Chemical & Engineering News, March 8, 1999, page 10, and the New York Times, Science Times, March 16, 1999. A more comprehensive discussion is presented on their web page, Sandia National Laboratories.

Technology similar to this is available in Canada under the name of CASCAD, produced under license from the Canadian Government.

Law Enforcement

For information specifically directed toward law enforcement, see the Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC) home page. They are located at 316 Washington Avenue, Wheeling, WV 26003. Telephone: 800-678-6882. This site contains many links to government, law enforcement, and private sector organizations.

An older, relatively speaking, article on the law enforcement topic has been authored by David G. Boyd, Director of Science and Technology at the National Institutes of Justice, Department of Justice, Rockville, MD. Much like the article above, Boyd's article summarizes some of the same topics.

It has been brought to my attention that Davis G. Boyd has assembled an advisory committee composed of representatives from the law enforcement arena and the corrections institutions arena. Apparently, the idea here is to generate contacts, improve information flow, and hopefully increase the speed of the product-to-market step.

US Army

The Department of the Army published a pamphlet in 1996 entitled, "Concept for Nonlethal Capabilities in Army Operations." It outlines the needs for the "less than lethal" battlefield conditions anticipated in the future "Operations Other Than War." Foam barricades are specifically listed as a concept, although the pamphlet suggests polyurethane foam, which , may or may not, qualify as aqueous. Currently the nonlethal operations are assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Army is still involved with tactical responsibility assigned to the Army Infantry Center and the law enforcement responsibility assigned to the Military Police.

Another branch of the Army is has been associated with foam technology. The Countermine Division, located at Fort Belvoir, VA, through their International Demining Project, has experimented with an explosive foam prepared by foaming nitromethane. This technique has apparently been used for clearing military runways of explosive devices. The foamed nitromethane, because of its low density, provides a "low level" explosive capable of detonating buried land mines. The technique has been used successfully in Bosnia. The technology was developed by Joe Trocino, Golden Bear products, Los Angeles, CA. Telephone: 818-981-6400.

In 1980, the Department of the Army patented a foam composition containing 7.5% aqueous ammonia along with other ingredients (sodium lauryl sulfate, sugar, and glycerin). The composition was used for area denial, both because the composition demonstrated lengthy drain times, but also because the ammonia certainly made the foam's application area uncomfortable. The high levels of sugar and glycerin improved the drain time (bulk viscosity increase) and also made the foam sticky, encouraging adhesion to any substrate. The patent is:

  • Brown, H.A., US Patent 4,203,974, May 20, 1980
    Stable Aqueous Foam Formulation, and Method of Use Thereof for Visual Obscuration and Area Denial

A simple observation suggests this may have been the beginning of the "sticky foam" development.

Other Military and Defense

In 1993, M. Garfinkle was issued a patent describing a projectile delivered foam technology capable of disabling an armored vehicle. The patent is:

  • Garfinkle, M., US Patent 5,194,687, March 16, 1993
    Means of Disabling Tactical Armored Vehicles

Another interesting foam application involves embedding an enzyme in (on) a polyurethane sponge, when the enzyme is capable of detoxing nerve gas. The sponge retains anti-nerve gas activity allowing the exposed military person to detox his equipment and his protective uniform. Development is proceeding toward a larger scale application where the enzyme is incorporated in a liquid (aqueous) system thereby allowing the detoxing of large vehicles — trucks and tanks, for instance — as well as large areas — buildings, airplanes, and open areas. This work was reported in the open literature, Chemical & Engineering News, September 15, 1997, pages 26ff. The work is being done in Dr. Alan J. Russell's laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, although other laboratories and facilities are involved.

A basic discussion of foam technology as applied to military and defense applications was recently presented at the National Defense Industrial Association, Non-lethal Defense IV Symposium, VA, March 20-22, 2000 — Kittle, P.A., "Aqueous Foam — Technology & Systems Development.."

See also: