From the Army Times
blend controls flying dust
March 28, 2003
Ark. company to
supply anti-sand mixture to military
By Jay Hughes
Military officials have ordered
a superabsorbent polymer mix developed by a Hot
Springs company to help control swirling sand and dust in the
deserts of Iraq and Kuwait.
Ted Douglas, president of Polymers, Inc., said the U.S. Marine
Corps has rush-ordered 5,000 pounds of his companyís mixture.
The Marines recently tested the mix in the California
desert and said it "worked beyond our wildest expectations,"
The military wanted to conduct additional on-site testing
because the California sand is more coarse than the sand of
Kuwait and Iraq, which plays havoc with helicopters and
Superabsorbent polymers are found in everything from baby
diapers to soft contact lenses, Douglas said. His company has
been working for more than a year on a dustand-sand-control
polymer for the military.
"Sand is a major problem because it gets into the engines,"
Douglas said Thursday. It also blinds troops as they leave
Douglas said the mixture, composed of two granular
components and one in an emulsion, can be spread on sand and
then sprayed with water to form a surface capable of keeping
sand and dust tamped down for up to six weeks. He said the
result is "more like a glue" rather than concrete.
"It will bind the sand together, but it will still be
soft," he said.
Douglas said he first approached the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers with the product more than a year ago. He said he
didnít hear back until three weeks ago, when he was contacted
by Aicardo Roa-Espinosa, a researcher at the University of
Roa-Espinosa, a soil and water engineer, said heíd been
asked by other scientists and the military to help solve
problems associated with operating helicopters in the desert.
Of several companies he contacted, he said, only Polymers,
Inc. offered the type of product he was looking for.
Roa-Espinosa joined Marine Corps personnel at their
Twentynine Palms base in California last week for tests to see
if the substance could tame the swirling sand clouds
helicopters kick up in the desert.
"In sand, when you bring in helicopters with high-powered
rotors, they elevate clouds of sand and dust. Those clouds
impair the vision of the pilot and the crew chief, and itís
hard to land," he said. "Also, for the moving parts of the
helicopter, itís terrible. This equipment is very expensive."
It took about two days to get the mixture right, but once
they nailed it, the compound "works really well,"
said. It eliminates about 80 percent of the rotor-created
He said the polymer mixture binds the sand and provides
structure that deserts lack. Douglas said Polymers, Inc. contracts
with two companies to manufacture the polymer.
He provided photographs that show "before and after"
results of the polymer mix applied to the desert.
In one, a Chinook, a dual-rotor helicopter that creates
considerable backwash, is seen raising a cloud of dust and
sand as it hovers above the ground; in another, no airborne
sand is evident.
If tests in Iraq are successful, Douglas said, "Iíve been
told to prepare for major orders" from the military.
The company, which has been in Hot Springs about eight
years, has invented and patented 11 superabsorbent polymers,
which are manufactured in various locations in the United
States, Germany and France.
Douglas and his business partner, John-Paul Morrison,
developed or invented the polymers and formulas with
assistance from consultants, including those who work for the
Information for this article was contributed by Jay Hughes
of The Associated Press and Mark Gregory of The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs.