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March 13, 1997

Audrey Schwartz
Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
(281) 483-5111

Release: J97-7

NASA Technology "Soaks Up" Potentially Dangerous Chemical Spills

Almost as easily as a paper towel wipes away spilled milk, a layered, pillow-like absorbent pad, developed at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, may absorb and neutralize toxic and non-toxic chemical spills.

Under a Space Act Agreement signed today between NASA Johnson Space Center and New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, NM, the university will improve the pad’s versatility to contain, neutralize and clean up a variety of potentially dangerous chemical spills. The pad initially was designed to absorb any hydrazine spilled from spacecraft engines during the Space Shuttle tanking process.

The pad’s absorbent interior containing chemically reactive agents counteracts the dangerous chemicals within the spill. The chemical reagents are selected to neutralize specific toxic, acidic or caustic spills. Once the chemical is neutralized, the pad is ready for disposal. Assembled in a "cut-and-sew" process, the pads can be easily made to whatever size a clean-up job requires.

Through the Space Act Agreement, New Mexico Highland University researchers will incorporate enhancements to increase absorption speed, improve reliability and improve toxic reactive agent effectiveness. In addition, the university will identify research needed to make the pads safe in environmental protection applications as well as develop a testing plan for the prototype.

The Johnson Space Center will provide limited engineering data, technical facilities for testing and technology transfer assistance. The resulting technology will be used by NASA programs and others where containment of hazardous liquids is necessary.


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