Staff members working on Homeland Protection programs utilize a wide range of state-of-the-art integrated aerosol, chemical, and microbiological research facilities. Our Systems Integration Building contains almost 20,000 square feet. of highly specialized laboratory space. This new facility enables the majority of APL's Homeland Protection work to be consolidated within one building, bringing together expertise from biology, chemistry, physics, nuclear physics, and engineering.
A suite of microbiology laboratories provides state-of-the-art biological analysis equipment to support testing and evaluation of emerging biological sensors and conduct simulant studies. The microbiology laboratory space consists of three separate laboratories with integrated research facilities for the following:
- Molecular biology
- Cell cultures (PCR/tissue culture)
- Aerosol studies
- Chain-of-custody work for environmental sample analysis (with controlled access for discrete tracking of samples)
Chemical Physics Research Laboratory (CPRL)
The CPRL provides instrumentation and prototyping facilities for research and development in sensors designed to detect chemical and explosive agents. The work focuses on developing novel sensors and modifying commercially available instruments to rapidly meet challenging systems requirements. APL scientists and engineers test and evaluate discrete sensors and sensor systems for their detection capabilities. Experts in chemical physics worked with architects to design this flexible workspace as a staging area for chemical sensors and sensor prototypes intended for operational use.
Chemical Sensor Integration Laboratory (CSIL)
In addition to standard analytical equipment, the CSIL is equipped with a chemical sensor test bed that supports the development of unique simulants of chemical agents that can be used in testing. This laboratory also houses apparatuses to generate and deliver samples for simulant testing.
Applied Nuclear Physics Laboratory
APL applies its testing and evaluation expertise to the development and testing of radiological sensors and systems. The Applied Nuclear Physics Laboratory provides a test facility where radiation sources are employed for a variety of research and development, testing and evaluation, and calibration applications. Projects include systems for maritime applications; vehicular-, aerial-, and human-portable mobile search systems; radiation portals; source tracking; and radiation mapping.
Explosives Detection Analysis Laboratory
In this laboratory, staff use their extensive testing and evaluation capabilities to evaluate government-approved screening facilities and equipment for passengers, baggage, and cargo. The equipment and setup help test technologies intended to prevent the entry of explosive devices into transportation systems and facilities, including aviation, rail, mass transit, and maritime. The environmental chamber can be configured to test the effects of various environmental conditions on the ability of sensors to accurately detect explosives. Subject-matter experts provide technical analysis and develop the logistics for implementing systems such as security checkpoints.
Three aerosol chambers are available for testing and evaluating biological and chemical sensors, instrumentation, and sampling and decontamination methods. The three chambers mimic real-world locations and challenge the sensors. The Environmental Chamber's controllable temperature range (–4°F to 122°F/–20°C to 50°C) and its variable humidity can simulate a desert's dryness or Washington, DC's summertime swampiness. The Dynamic Aerosol Laboratory's particulate and chemical environment, which can be changed rapidly, is used to evaluate sensors brought in by their manufacturers. The largest of the three spaces, the Static Aerosol Chamber, allows researchers to follow biological plumes as they propagate.
Building Protection Laboratory
A dedicated, self-contained heating and ventilation system isolates the Building Protection Laboratory from other work areas. It can be reconfigured into a variety of office layouts with different types of ventilation systems that create unique airflow patterns. This laboratory serves as a testbed for systems that could be installed in office complexes and buildings to detect, contain, and mitigate the effects of a biological attack.