NRL Scientists Create Fast, Accurate Software Tool to Detect Chemical, Biological, and Radiation Threats


8/25/2003 - 45-03r
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Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory have created a software tool called CT-Analyst™ that can assess airborne chemical, biological, or radiological threats with greater accuracy and much greater speed than previously possible. Earlier tools to detect airborne threats took hours to get results if they were accurate, or they could get results within minutes, but the results were relatively inaccurate. NRL's CT-Analyst, where CT stands for Contaminant Transport, is accurate and fast as well as correctly treating the urban landscape with buildings and trees, three important factors for saving lives in the event of a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack.

The CT-Analyst uses a new "dispersion nomograph™" technology and runs on Macintosh, Windows and Unix systems, explains Dr. Jay Boris, Chief Scientist and Director of NRL's Laboratory for Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics. Entire series of different scenarios, involving different locations of the source of contamination or changing wind direction, can be computed and displayed in a few seconds like a continuous action movie. The tool is 80-90% as accurate as state-of-the-art 3D-computational fluid dynamics models and can provide results 100 to 10,000 times faster than real time. CT-Analyst is designed specifically for urban settings where tall buildings may be present. Earlier prediction tools were designed for areas with flat terrain. The software is also very easy to use. A person can be trained to use the software tool in about two hours as the system looks and feels something like a computer game). In addition to projecting contaminated areas based on sensor data input, CT-Analyst can provide projected evacuation routes where people could be directed to safety.

The CT-Analyst works so fast because the heavy computing work is done before the emergency ever occurs. The data is then condensed into tables, the dispersion nomographs, that can be recalled quickly if an airborne threat occurs to provide instant information on the source location and plume dispersion patterns. The predictions and suggested escape routes created by CT-Analyst can be transmitted to and from a headquarters location to personnel in the field by a wireless link.

The CT-Analyst in intended for commanders and emergency response officials making decisions about chemical, biological, or radiological attacks, accidents, and natural disasters on urban battlegrounds, in large building complexes, and in urban regions. The software tool would allow emergency response personnel to react fast enough to save unprotected lives and close down buildings and facilities before their air-handling systems become contaminated. NRL researchers are testing the software tool in simulated exercises and have recent versions of the system in several cities and facilities.



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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of nearly 2,800 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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