The first of Syria's chemical weapons have left the country, and are en route to their destruction. Piled aboard a Danish ship, they're headed to Italy, where they will meet a U.S. Navy ship outfitted with equipment to destroy the weapons. How much of the Syrian stockpile has been removed remains unknown.
But what's clear is this: Destroying chemical weapons is really simple. (In terms of the chemistry required — not logistics. The weapons transporters, after all, are moving highly deadly agents through a war-torn country.)
The most commonplace of chemicals, water, can destroy the weapons, in what is called a hydrolysis reaction. If you took high-school chemistry, you have conducted a hydrolysis reaction (come on, you remember, right?). Hydrolysis works like this: When water — either acidic or basic — is mixed with certain chemicals, the water will act as a knife, slicing those chemical in half. In the case of chemical weapons such as sarin gas and VX, they are broken down into simpler units without such violently toxic effects.
As National Journal's Sara Sorcher reported in December, the U.S. military has a mobile hydrolyzer that it will employ on the ship. This is what it looks like.