Homeland Security Initiatives Spawn New Business for Maryland Manufacturer

Batching Systems Inc. (BSI), a Prince Frederick, Md.-based manufacturing company once specialized in building customized, state-of-the-art production equipment for other manufacturers that need machines to count or precisely weigh their products. Lately, however, BSI owner Don Wooldridge and a small band of engineers and production staff have been working on a new intrapreneurial project that has strong implications for homeland security and Department of Defense initiatives.

Wooldridge's new spin-off company, Unique Technologies Inc. (UTI), is working on two technologies that have the potential to revolutionize the bioterrorism, crop-science and homeland security industries using PERSOLs research and manufacturing. PERSOLs are a family of heavy-duty oxidizing compounds originally formulated and patented by the U.S. Navy for use in propulsion systems. They have the ability to break down potentially harmful compounds into water, oxygen and other elements that are deemed harmless by the Environmental Protection Agency.

UTI has licensed the use of PERSOLs in commercial applications such as bioterrorism remediation, extended-life disinfectants and crop-science disease prevention through a tech transfer program at the Indian Head Naval Base. The disinfecting features of PERSOLs give them the ability to kill farm-based bacteria and fungus that can lead to the spread of Avian Flu and SARS.

Wooldridge says that PERSOLs have another major potential market as a replacement for perchlorate in all forms of energetic materials, from solid rocket propellants to explosives and pyrotechnics. Perchlorate is a highly toxic and stable material that can leach into soil and ground water, causing human health problems like thyroid disease and cancer, and costing communities millions of dollars to clean up.

"The potential applications for this technology are mind-boggling," said Wooldridge. "The Navy has utilized PERSOLs for years in their rockets and propulsion systems and now we are exploring ways they can solve a much wider range of business and security issues. I am certain that the potential for these products will dwarf current use and understanding. That's the real beauty of technology transfer; products that were originally developed for military purposes are retooled and used in novel ways to resolve consumer problems."

Another technology that UTI is working on is flash grenades. Also a spin-out technology from Indian Head, flash grenades provide a non-lethal method for controlling crowds, terrorists or criminals by emitting a temporarily blinding flash. The grenades produce no noise, are relatively inexpensive, generate no fire-inducing heat and are self-contained. "Because they produce virtually no human injuries or property damage, there are a number of organizations that are interested in our flash grenades," said Wooldridge, "including police units, the military and officials at the Department of Homeland Security."

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