Amine-functionalized chitin munitions decontamination

Identifies NTO, DNAN and TNT in water via colorimetric change and removes them with a regenerative adsorbent


Army scientists have invented a portable, sustainable, and scalable system to remove noxious explosives from groundwater. The patent-pending technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

A new Army system enables toxic munition contamination in sensitive ecosystems. (Vinson Tan/Pixabay)

Contamination from testing and disposal of munitions is a global concern. The Department of Defense estimated that, in the U.S. alone, munitions contaminated 15 million acres of land with clean-up costing billions of dollars.

Naturally occurring chitins have been successfully used to remove metal contaminants from water. However, the primary ingredient in conventional munitions compounds is nitrogen, not metal. There are no naturally occurring chitins which bind to nitrogen and extract munitions contaminants at a high enough rate for effective remediation.

Standard munitions compounds such as Nitrotriazolone (NTO), 2,4-dinitroanisole (DNAN), and trinitrotoluene (TNT) contaminate soil and groundwater and are both acutely and chronically toxic. They are also resistant to natural microbiological degradation and negatively affect ecosystems even at low levels.

There is an unmet need for a compound produced at scale to efficiently remove munitions from underground water supplies, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Army scientists developed this munitions detection and removal system to address this pressing issue.

The system includes a delivery component, (a material or container), with an amine-functionalized chitin (AFC) compound to interact with a water sample or a mixture of solids suspended in liquid, such as soil particles in water. The AFC compound produces a color change correlated with the presence and concentration of munitions, for example in a transparent receptacle, or added to a paper or fabric test strip. Upon detection of at least one part per million (ppm) concentration of NTO, DNAN, or TNT, the munitions are adsorbed by the AFC compound, and a filter with a pore size of 0.45 microns captures and removes the particles.

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