(New Scientist) The prospect of imminent US air strikes on Syria receded this week, after Russia pressured embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad into agreeing to give up his chemical weapons (CW). While weapons experts warn that it could take years to destroy all of Syria’s poisons, New Scientist has learned that the US has been developing game-changing technology to rapidly destroy CW in a foreign country.

In February, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency commissioned the US’s leading chemical defense lab to design a self-sufficient mobile plant that can safely destroy CW agents – and can be deployed anywhere in the world at short notice. Unusually, it wanted a prototype ready within just 20 weeks.

Working round the clock, the US Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) in Maryland finished the prototype on schedule, and in June handed it over to the military agency that acquires new chemical-defense equipment.

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