The Department of Defense is searching for biodegradable ammunition in an effort to clean up the hundreds of thousands of training rounds that are discarded by the US military.
A huge number of rounds are expended at military training fields across the country, ranging from “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds.” These rounds can take up to hundreds of years to biodegrade and collecting them from training sites has proven to be a labour intensive task. However, leaving them where they fall can lead to pollution of the soil and contamination of water supplies.
The Department of Defense is calling for proposals through the Small Business Innovation Research program to find a more environmentally friendly alternative to current ammunition. The DoD believes that the best option would be a casing made of a naturally biodegradable substance that could potentially carry seeds inside that would replenish the land damaged by military training.
The seeds will be designed not to germinate until several months after being discharged from empty rounds. Plants will then sprout from the ammunition that will actively remove soil contaminants and break down other biodegradable components. The DoD also stated that the ability for the plants to be edible by local wildlife was extremely important.
Applications to pitch solutions for the issue are open until February 8th, with the ability to replace currently existing 40mm to 120mm rounds with biodegradable rounds that meet the performance requirements of existing rounds being the first task at hand. The contractor chosen to undertake the project is also expected to explore ways that biodegradable materials with integrated seeds can be utilised for purposes aside from defense.