Morphix Technologies® is a
leader in creating and manufacturing easy-to-use, cost effective, reliable
products that detect invisible dangers. It has taken simple colorimetric (color
change) technology and ruggedized it for field use. The ISO 9001:2008 certified
company has sold over 10 million sensors for use by military, emergency response
and industrial personnel.
Morphix Technologies offers a
line of chemical detection products. Two are of special interest to law
enforcement: the Chameleon® Chemical Detection Kits and the TraceX® Explosive
Chameleon Detection Armband
The Chameleon Detection
Armband was developed for the US military under funding from the U.S. Marine
Corps Small Business Research Innovation Research (SBIR) Program in order to
provide personnel with rugged, easy-to-use chemical detection. In the past,
chemical detection devices were too cumbersome and expensive for regular field
use. The Chameleon was (and is) a game changer.
Since the initial launch of
the Chameleon in 2005, Morphix Technologies has expanded the list of detectable
chemicals, as well as pre-configured detection kits for specific circumstances.
Morphix Technologies currently offers Hazmat, Clan-Meth-Lab, Chemical Suicide, and
Arson Investigation Detection Kits. The Hazmat Detection Kit can be used in a multitude
of situations that may be encountered by first responders, including suspected
clan-meth labs and chemical suicides.
The Chameleon is designed to
attach to the forearm for hands-free detection of gasses and vapors in the air,
with no need for a liquid sample. It consists of an armband that holds up to 10
chemical detection cassettes. The armband is designed for an easy on/off fit,
including over turn-out gear.
All of the Chameleon
Detection Kits include two armbands (14” or 18”), one hard carrying case and 10
pouches containing a set of pre-configured chemical detection cassettes. Full
instructions, including photographs.
Each pouch contains one
cassette of important functions. HazMat: Acid (low pH), Base (high pH),
Chlorine/Fluorine, Hydrogen Sulfide, Phosgene, Hydrogen Fluoride, Hydrazine,
Iodine, Phosphine and Sulfur Dioxide. Arson: Acid (low pH), Ammonia, Hydrogen
Cyanide, Hydrogen Fluoride, Hydrogen Sulfide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfate Dioxide
and Phosgene. Clan-Meth Lab: Acid (low pH), Ammonia, Hydrogen Sulfide, and
Phosphine. Chemical Suicide: Acid (low pH), Base (high pH), Hydrogen Sulfide, Phosphine
and Sulfur Dioxide.
Each cassette comes in a
sealed, tear-open foil pouch that bears the name of the Hazmat chemical, along
with a lot number and an expiration date. Shelf life is 24 months at room
temperature. The cassettes should be stored in a cool place (77 deg F is optimum)
although short-term storage of 35 deg F to 140 deg F is acceptable.
Once the foil pouch is
opened, the cassettes have a service life of 24 hours. They have an operating
temperature range of -22 deg F to 122 deg F. Operating humidity range is 20
percent to 100 percent RH. They are capable of immersion in fresh or salt water
for one hour.
The cassettes are warranted
for a period of two years or shelf life, whichever is less. Refill kits are
available, as are individual cassettes. A Diborane cassette is also
available. New cassettes are coming soon
according to the company.
Chemical detection with the
Chameleon is literally foolproof. You simply load cassettes prior to use and
put on the armband. If the chemical is present, one half of the viewing window
on the cassette will change color. There is no calibration. There are no
batteries to fail. The armband positioning allows the user to continuously
monitor the surrounding air for hazardous chemicals at a glance while engaged
in other tasks.
Morphix Technologies also
makes a Chameleon training kit that is designed for classroom demonstrations. The
training kit includes ampoules of ammonia inhalant (“smelling salts”) and
training cassettes. The “smelling salts” make the training cassette change
color to provide an actual example of the Chameleon in use.
The Chameleon has been
approved by the U.S. Safety Act of the Department of Homeland Security as an
anti-terrorism technology that will be used to save lives. The Safety Act
provides important legal liability protections for providers of Qualified
TraceX Explosives Kit
The TraceX Explosives Kit was
developed under contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to meet military
needs for an affordable, easy-to-use product that detects all major explosive
material threats without exposing the user or kit to contamination or dangerous
Introduced in 2013, the
TraceX Explosive Kit is designed to identify bombers and their bomb making
facilities. It can detect all major homemade explosives and their precursors
with a single swab.
The Improvised Explosive
Device (IED) is the weapon of choice of terrorists around the globe. Domestic
law enforcement must deal with the reality that terrorists will seek to employ
this tactic on American soil.
Law enforcement is faced with
a dual role of uncovering bombers and bomb making networks before an incident
and investigating the aftermath of any incident. Terrorist events, such as the
bombings of the London subway or the Boston marathon, underscore this need.
The Pentagon has warned that
the U.S. faces an increasing IED threat at home. In public testimony before the
House Homeland Security Committee, Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, director of the
Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO),
stated, “The domestic IED threat from both homegrown extremists and global
threat networks is real and presents a significant security challenge for the
detection devices (“sniffers’) have traditionally been used to detect common
explosive materials and their precursors. These devices are expensive and
require regular maintenance. Additionally, they require considerable
specialized training to use.
Specially trained dogs are
also used to detect explosives by using their noses, which are very sensitive
to scents. Dogs can be very effective; however, their capabilities become
degraded as they tire or become bored.
explosive detection kits have been available for some time, they are often
difficult to use and interpret. They also often require the user to mix chemicals
and perform multiple tests. These kits can also expose the user to toxic
chemicals and can expose the kit to contamination from the environment, which
leads to unreliable results.
The TraceX Explosives Kit
comes in a tear-open, hermetically sealed plastic pouch with complete operating
instructions. The pouch bears a lot number and expiration date. The kit itself
is housed in its own disposable, protective hard plastic case.
The entire kit measures only
5.3 inches x 3.8 inches x 0.8-inch and is small enough to fit in a cargo
pocket. It is sensitive enough to detect trace levels of explosives and
precursors (can also detect bulk levels).
The TraceX Explosive Kit
detects all of the major families of explosive materials and the precursors:
Nitroaromatics (TNT, DNT, Tetryl), Nitramines & Nitrate Esters (RDX, HMX,
PETN, EGDN, NG), Inorganic Nitrates (urea nitrate, ammonium nitrate, black
powder), Chlorates & Bromates (potassium chlorate, potassium bromate),
Peroxides (TATP, HMTD), Acids (nitric acid, sulfuric acid, citric acid) and Bases
(potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide).
The TraceX Explosives Kit is
extremely simple to use. A single swab and crush is all that is necessary. All
chemicals are contained inside the plastic case. There is a low potential for
sample contamination. The sampling site is protected by cover and the user
swabs with handle. The testing and results are all conducted within the case.
Results are clearly
indicated. A single color indicates the presence of a particular family of
explosive material. While standard pens and wipes can detect between 1–3 and 1–4
explosive families in one test cycle in two to 12 minutes respectively, the
TraceX Explosives Kit can detect nine in under three minutes.
The TraceX Explosives Kit has
an operating temperature range of 35 deg F to 122 deg F. The operating humidity range is 20 percent to
95 percent RH. Shelf Life is 12 months at room temperature. Short-term
excursions up to 122 deg F are acceptable. The TraceX is warranted for one year
or shelf life, whichever is less. The TraceX explosives detection kit is available
in boxes of five kits.
Morphix Technologies also
offers a TraceX Explosives Training Kit.
The training kit includes a TraceX Kit, blue plastic film, sealed foil
pouch containing citric acid powder, and operating instructions.
Eugene Nielsen provides investigative and tactical
consulting services and is a former officer. He may be reached at