Ms. Amee Polk, a U.S. Army Chemical Biological Center (DEVCOM CBC) employee supporting MSEE while working at JHU on her Doctorate of Engineering, led a partnership amongst JHU, JH APL, and DEVCOM CBC to develop a bio-containment box used to analyze samples during extraterrestrial biological missions named BioVault.  Amee’s efforts focused on issues associated with sealing the BioVault and disposal after sample assay completion.  A brief write-up of the BioVault is provided below:

Analysis techniques for extraterrestrial biological missions are severely limited due to fear of contamination from terrestrial biology. In an effort to combat this, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JH APL) is currently developing a bio-containment box (dubbed the BioVault) for in situ detection of biosignatures in a hermetically sealed, fail-safe equipped method. To address the issues associated with sealing the BioVault and with disposal after sample assay completion, APL contacted Dr. Timothy Weihs’ group at JHU. Dr. Weihs’ Doctorate of Engineering student, Amee Polk (a current DEVCOM CBC employee), was able to address the decontamination requirement by providing a low vapor producing, long reacting bespoke thermite formulation. APL established a formal partnership with CBC, and successful testing of the thermite decontamination system occurred. Dr. Weihs provided APL with a method of reactive foil sealing for containment of the BioVault, which is currently being explored.

This program successfully met APL’s criteria for continuation and additional funding.

Figure1: APL BioVault

Figure 2: Burning pellet of target thermite composition