In 1995, a Japanese cult contaminated Tokyo's subway system with the nerve gas sarin leading to the deaths of twelve and thousands of injuries which brings up the question, "How would the U.S. handle the contamination of concrete?" Craig Tenney, a chemical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, currently researches the most effective ways (cost-wise and health-wise) to clean concrete in the event of this occurrence.
The project uses computer simulations to determine how the contaminants react in the concrete pores.
Building on that knowledge and his expertise in atomic-scale models of chemical reactions, Chris O'Brien, a computational materials science postdoctoral researcher, looked at how chemical agents degrade in concrete. He modeled an agent bound to several representative concrete environments and watched how this interaction hastened or slowed the natural break-down process. The team will use the results to determine the best way to decontaminate concrete exposed to nasty chemicals.