TNO-PML: Chemical Research


Chemical Research

In the period up to 1960, the chemical research program of the TNO Defence Research Organisation was mainly dominated by research into organic phosphorus compounds, which emerged from the Second World War as highly toxic chemical weapons (nerve agents). It concerns the synthesis and determination of the properties, including the physiological ones. For the latter, as well as for prophylaxis and therapy, collaboration with the Medical-Biological Laboratory (MBL) was indispensable. This collaboration was very intense and continued, even after the MBL-TNO left the TNO Defence Research Organisation in 1978, until 1995. At that time, the research topics were incorporated in the program of the Pharmacology department in the Prins Maurits Laboratory (TNO-PML).

Mustard gas was considered the ‘king of the war gases’ until 1945 and always remains a threatening potential chemical weapon that should not be forgotten in research. The expertise of the PML was called upon in 1978 for a special mustard gas destruction project: Operation Obong.

In-depth attention is paid to the phenomenon of adsorption, on which the operation of the filter canister of the gas mask is based, the reactions that are useful for disinfection, filtration of aerosols, etc. Around the 1960s, the main attention shifted to developing protective equipment.

First, gas exploration equipment was developed and introduced, which is still part of the NBC equipment today. An automatic nerve gas detection and alarm device was also being developed, industrial further development of which will only take place when the technical advantage of the device is outdated. It will therefore not be introduced in the Armed Forces.

Gas scouting equipment
Gas scouting equipment


Because a well-functioning disarmament treaty will significantly reduce the threat that the Dutch Armed Forces will be exposed to chemical attacks, TNO-PML has been responsible for the Dutch delegation to the UN negotiations in Geneva on a treaty on this topic from the early 1970s onwards. It took until 1997 that the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) came into force. TNO-PML occupied a leading position in the training of inspectors who must monitor compliance with the treaty. The organisation of the treaty (OPCW), which is based in The Hague, is also supported.