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A new material developed for the U.S. Marine Corps may help military and civilian law enforcement agencies isolate facilities and stop confrontational crowds

An anti-traction gel developed at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will soon be used to help the Marines stop or deter the advance of confrontational crowds or threatening vehicles without the use of deadly force.

The Mobility Denial System (MDS) is a nonhazardous chemical spray system that spreads a highly slippery, viscous gel to inhibit the movement of individuals or vehicles on treated surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, grass and wood. The obstacle it creates enables military or law enforcement personnel to stop or delay crowds and equipment, and isolate facilities such as embassies, loading docks, piers or other restricted areas.


A vehicle-mounted dispensing system provides wide-area coverage of the anti-traction material. The system fits in the cargo compartment of a humvee and provides about 100,000 square feet of coverage - about the size of two football fields.


"Riots, protests, noncombatant evacuations and sanction enforcement are just a few of the situations where this kind of tactical barrier would be most useful," said Capt. Andrew B. Warren, MDS project officer for Marine Corps Systems Command, headquartered in Quantico, Va. "The substance severely reduces surface friction and results in a loss of traction or control."

The gel can be distributed over a wide area by a vehicle-mounted system or in and around buildings from a portable unit operated by an individual. Both systems are easy to use and quick to deploy. The portable system weighs about 55 pounds when loaded and carries enough material to cover a 2,000-square-foot area. The vehicle-mounted system fits in the cargo compartment of an HMMWV (humvee) and provides about 100,000 square feet of coverage - about the size of two football fields.


Individuals are unable to cross obstacles of barriers coated with the anti-traction material, even grassy areas, enabling military or law enforcement personnel to stop or delay crowds and vehicles or to isolate facilities such as embassies, loading docks, piers or other restricted areas.


Marine Corps and SwRI team members selected the formulation based on its superior effectiveness in reducing friction, ability to sustain loads, safety, commercial availability and acceptable cost. Water is used as the dispersing agent and as the catalyst that activates the material to achieve the desired characteristics. It works under a vehicle's tires at low to high speeds and under normal foot loads.

In addition to horizontal surfaces, this substance can be sprayed on vertical surfaces such as walls, windows, doors and fences. The horizontal surfaces of buildings also can be sprayed to preclude the use of ladders or other scaling devices.

"Once a foot or tire is coated with the substance, the anti-traction material is transferred to uncoated surfaces, making them slippery as well," said Program Manager Ron Mathis, a principal engineer in the SwRI Applied Physics Division.

The anti-traction substance is effective at surface temperatures ranging from 32 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit and lasts six to 12 hours. The material works equally well on smooth or rough surfaces.

"The concept of employment for this system is to be part of a barrier or obstacle plan that will provide stand-off distance and force protection for U.S. military personnel," Warren said. "The MDS will be applicable in many different missions to include checkpoint operations, denying avenues of approach and dealing with confrontational crowds."

Contact Mathis at (210) 522-3136 or rmathis@swri.org.

Published in the Spring 2002 issue of Technology Today®, published by Southwest Research Institute. For more information, contact Joe Fohn.

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