DTRA seeks to lighten protective uniform against biothreats

Researchers with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency recently announced a new understanding of conjugated polymers with biocidal and sensing capabilities, which could result in lighter, more protective uniforms for soldiers.

The team, which was funded by the DTRA's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department and the Joint Science and Technology Office, used experimental and simulation methods to determine how carboxyester groups and hydrogen bonding impact hydration, aggregation and fluorescence quenching. The results were recently published in the Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry.

The researchers analyzed aggregation with classical molecular dynamics simulations, solvent isotope effects and ionic surfactants. The team found that the presence of carboxyester groups resulted in highly structured interfacial water and quenched fluorescence. The researchers also found that hydrogen bonding is needed for aggregate formation.

Biocides are compounds that are able to neutralize multiple biological agents. By using the substances in protective garment materials, the garments could self-detoxify without increasing weight or heat stress burdens.

"These efforts should help develop a new class of light activated polymers and coatings with biocidal properties for use as antimicrobial agents," the DTRA said.

The development of systems that use biocides could also have applications in fundamental research, high-throughput drug screening and medical and clinical diagnostics.