System lifts the lid on hazardous containers

February 02, 1998

Containers of unknown and possibly hazardous materials are often found at laboratories, industrial buildings, dump sites, and other locations. Labeled containers may have been refilled or their contents chemically changed over time. In addition, corrosion can render containers fragile and prone to rupture when moved. A researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory has invented two devices that can open unknown containers--without endangering the operator or the environment. The devices use a remote-controlled, air-powered piston to puncture and vent containers and draw samples. They can contain escaping substances and neutralize or pump out the container's contents. One version straps directly to large containers, such as 55-gal drums, while the second is an adjustable device that holds containers ranging from small milk bottles to 30-gal drums. According to the researcher, the sampling devices are environmentally friendly, inexpensive to produce, and compatible with breathing equipment frequently used by hazardous material teams. E-mail [email protected].

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