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Developing 'second skin' military fabric to repel chemical and biological agents
Date:11/27/2012

AMHERST, Mass. Military uniforms of the future may offer a new layer of critical protection to wearers thanks to research by teams at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and several other institutions who are developing a nanotube-based fabric that repels chemical and biological agents.

UMass Amherst polymer scientists Kenneth Carter and James Watkins, collaborating with team leader Francesco Fornasiero of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), recently received a five-year $1.8 million grant to design ways to manufacture the new material as part of a $13 million project funded by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. It's estimated that the new uniforms could be deployed in the field in less than 10 years.

The researchers say the fabric will be able to switch reversibly from a highly breathable state to a protective one in response to the presence of the environmental threat without the need for an external control system. In the protective state, the uniform material will block the chemical threat while maintaining a good breathability level. "The uniform will be like a smart second skin that responds to the environment," says Fornasiero.

UMass Amherst polymer scientists bring expertise in additive-driven assembly processes that bring polymers and nanoparticles together to produce hybrid functional materials to the project. Membrane and layer fabrication will take place in part through the university's Roll-to-Roll Nanofabrication Laboratory.

The new fabric's reversibility is due to highly breathable membranes with pores made of a few-nanometer-wide, vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes modified with a functional surface layer designed to respond to the presence of a chemical warfare agent, says Watkins at UMass Amherst. The threat response would be triggered by direct chemical warfare agent attack. The fabric would switch to a protective state by closing the pore entrance or by shedding the contaminated s
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Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert  

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