This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Characterization of Defeat of Weaponized Biological Spores via Heat Transfer




Rolader, Drew

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Mechanical Engineering


During the past few decades, there has been concern that large amounts of weaponized Bacillus Anthracis (Ba) is being created and stored in 55 gallon barrels by potential adversaries of the United States. The most likely offensive solutions to deal with these stored agents is to just bomb the storage facility. While such an attack may prevent the Ba from being used as a weapon, it also could loft the agent into the air and disperse it into civilian populations. This “collateral damage” could kill thousands of innocent people. The objective of this thesis was to study a new low collateral damage method for defeating biological agents. Weaponized biological agents are typically in the form of spores. When inhaled, these spores vegetate and release toxins within the body. Only a very small amount of Ba spores inhaled can lead to death. For this thesis, two new methods to defeat a simulate for Ba spores (Bacillus Thuringiensis, Bt) were investigated. Both methods used thermite as a heat source inside of a barrel of agent simulate. The first method relies on the temperature generated by the thermite to kill the spores. The second method uses the heat from the thermite to burn the outer layer of the spores and the filler material. This burning releases sticky gasses throughout the barrel, and as they re-condense, these gases cause the spores to form clumps that are larger than the respirable limit. For this thesis, many experiments were performed and a theoretical model was developed. The aim was to use the experimental data to validate the numerical model and understand the basic phenomena occurring with simulate as it is exposed to high temperature. Temperature data was collected experimentally, and the model accurately predicted the measured distribution. In addition, the measured spatial distribution of the particle sizes in the mixture correlated very well with that predicted by the model. This analysis indicates the studied approach may be a viable solution to destroy weaponized biological agent in the future.