Arizona Patent of the Month – July 2020

Military troops could be a lot safer, cooler and have more movability with a self-sealing fabric that protects against chemical weapon agents (CWA).

Troops wear mission oriented protective posture gear (MOPP) if/when there is high risk of exposure to CWA. This clothing is specifically designed with pore-less polymeric coatings, to minimize or prevent chemical and biological agents from reaching the wearer and from attaching and being transmitted to others. However, it also limits any heat or moisture getting out, meaning the MOPP gear is dangerously hot.  Troops can safely wear this for only an hour in moderate climates, and even less in warmer regions, such as the Middle East. In these climates, they’re often fitted with cooling systems, with ice or using active fluid pumping. However, this cooling system of course adds to the size, weight, complexity and cost of MOPP gear.

So, troops are either dangerously overheated, unable to move quickly, or do not have quick and easy access to MOPP gear. And, the MOPP and cooling gear often minimizes the exposure to CWA, but doesn’t completely eliminate it, meaning that troops can have long-term damage if they’re working in these environments often or for long periods of time.

To resolve this, Arizona State University and the US Navy developed a CWA barrier material that would seal upon contact with a few micro-droplets of liquid. The fabric has a base layer(s), made with a weave, knit, mesh, mesh-like material, and/or netting, with overlapping strands of material. A polymer coating covers this base layer, and is arranged to swell by absorbing a target substance. Gaps are left between strands in the base layer, which are sealed when the polymer coating swells.

The polymer coating layer is made from elastomer polymer microspheres, core-shell polymer microspheres and a reactive monomer, which causes the swell. The base layer can be made from polymer (e.g. polypropylene, polyethylene, nylon, Teflon, etc) or a natural material (e.g. cotton, wool, silk, linen etc).

The result is self-decontaminating and breathable fabric that self-seals into an impermeable barrier in response to contact with a wide range of CWA agents. The pores/gaps in the fabric allow air flow, making the material light and breathable. To go a step further, there’s also potential for the base material to include carbon, which would allow the CWA to be absorbed and degraded.

Are you developing a new product or process? Did you know your R&D experiments could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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