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Planning for chem-bio attacks with Computational Fluid Dynamics

Raymond Andrieu


(Editor's Note: This article first appeared in GSN's "Essential Guide to Disaster Preparedness," which accompanied our November 2010 print issue.)


Computational Fluid Dynamics (“CFD”), an analytic tool that is most widely used to prevent cross contamination during the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and foods, can now also be used to analyze threats from chemical and biological weapons. 

As the world faces increasing threats from the possible use of dirty weapons containing chemical and biological agents, defense and protection agencies face a deadly serious situation. There is a growing awareness that such attacks are very difficult to prevent, but these agencies nevertheless need to enhance their capability to minimize the impact that such disasters might have. 

To achieve this goal, greater knowledge of probable targets is required. In case an attack occurs, it is essential that public authorities can determine the criticality of the situation in order to take decisive remedial action quickly.

High profile buildings and vital infrastructure probably are key targets for chemical and biological attacks. We know that essential public services, such as hospitals and underground transportation systems, are extremely vulnerable to such events. The consequences of such a chemical or biological attack would be disastrous. Therefore it is crucial that security agencies can accurately predict the effects of different types of aggression, and plan how they would act to minimize the resulting damage and disruption. 

To prepare for unconventional attacks, government agencies and private sector companies need to think creatively about how technologies currently being used in various industry sectors can be adapted to plan for such chem-bio disasters. 

Hygie-Tech, a Swiss-based company that has expertise in Computational Fluid Dynamics, has developed an innovative new software tool, known as HG-Flow.Protect, which can be used in disaster planning. 

CFD is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical methods and algorithms to analyze problems involving the flows of fluid. Computer programs are used to perform millions of calculations that simulate the interaction of liquids and gases upon different surfaces, under various scenarios. The goal of CFD is to accurately predict fluid flows, heat transfers and chemical reactions in complex systems, which involve one or all of these phenomena.

Hygie-Tech has been providing CFD services for factories and clean rooms by developing software that uses precision 3D laser scans to visualize buildings in 3D. HG-Flow.Protect quantifies airflows and diffused aerosols in various environments. The results of this process illustrate how air moves in a specific scanned area. Various contaminants can be added in order to assess exactly how a pollutant would spread. The Hygie-Tech software can adjust its projections when furniture, vehicles or individuals are added to, moved within, or removed from a particular scenario.

Hygie-Tech’s tools can be applied to crucial public areas, such as subway systems and government buildings, in order to assess how a contaminant would travel through the air as well as the remedial action that could be taken to minimize potential damage and disruption. The software provides vital information for developing prevention and decontamination plans related to scenarios involving anthrax, toxic gas, sarin or even metallic powders and clusters such as polonium.  


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