Almost everywhere they go in Iraq, American soldiers find stacks of explosives and guns. According to one 2004 survey, at least 7 million small arms -- including AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers and mortar tubes, and more sophisticated arms like ground-to-air missiles -- have fallen into the hands of Iraqi civilians since "Mission Accomplished" in 2003.U.S. troops would like to get rid of all of those weapons, as they find them. "However, the extremely large number of both weapons and storage sites has rendered global securing and destruction of caches nearly impossible," notes Darpa, the Pentagon's way-out research arm.What the agency wants to see instead: a non-toxic spray that can "penetrate rapidly into the [weapon's] active firing and/or actuation mechanisms and render them instantly and permanently inoperable."
The formulation will produce an accelerated corrosion (or other) reaction over a longer period of time (a few months or less), perhaps using the weapon material itself as a metallic catalyst, to destroy the weapon internal structure. The formulation must be effective in small quantities (i.e., a few grams per weapon), safe to use, stable over the range of operational temperature/humidity conditions, have a long shelf-life, be capable of large-area dissemination, and produce a non-toxic residue after the weapon is destroyed...[The spray] must not be reversed by simple chemical, thermal, or other means. Such a chemical system has the potential to enable the systematic and effective removal of small arms from the battlespace.