Hoping to clothe its troops against greater chemical, bacterial and viral threats, the Army is in the market for a new protective coating that can repel just about anything.
U.S. Army / Staff Sgt. Fredrick P. Varney
|Sgt. Robert E. Blackwelder decontaminates his equipment during a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) course.|
In a solicitation issued Wednesday (April 11), the Army put out the call for sources to develop “omniphobic” textile coatings that can resist solid and liquid toxic industrial chemicals, petroleum, oil, lubricants, chemical warfare agents, bacteria, viruses, dirt, rain, snow and water.
“The purpose of this effort is to assess the current state of the art in research, development and engineering for durable omniphobic (i.e., superhydrophobic and superoleophobic) coatings for potential applications in military clothing,” the solicitation said.
More Safety, Less Laundry
Omniphobicity has been demonstrated in labs for many years, the Army said. The problem is that the treated surfaces have been easily compromised by slight scratching and abrasion—clearly, a serious drawback for military wear.
The Army envisions “omniphobic treated protective clothing” that will “help to protect the skin from contact with solid and liquid toxic industrial chemicals, petroleum, oil, and lubricants, chemical warfare agents, and bacteria and viruses, thus effectively providing enhanced chemical/biological (CB) protection,” the solicitation says.
As a bonus, tougher duds would also cut down on the Army’s laundry bills, the solicitation notes.
Requirements and Specifications
The coating should be thin, lightweight, breathable and conformal to the textile fibers, the Army says. It should allow the fabric to remain “flexible and dimensionally stable” (not shrink, stretch or be stiff). And the coating should not affect the fabric’s print or color.
|The Army’s Natick Labs will evaluate the submissions.|
“These omniphobic coated/treated fabrics will resist attractions by liquid chemicals and aerosols by having very low surface tensions (i.e., very high liquid contact angle), while they are durable—having high abrasion resistance, good tensile strength, minimally hindering air permeability and moisture vapor transport properties,” the solicitation says.
Coatings submitted for consideration will be tested against a detailed list of material performance requirements included in the solicitation.
Testing and evaluation will be conducted by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development & Engineering Center (NSRDEC, or Natick Labs) in Natick, MA.
Materials that make the grade may be “integrated into follow-on science, technology, and acquisition programs with the aim to develop and transition advanced and novel technologies to benefit the Soldiers,” the Army said.
Submissions of omniphobic treated materials and technical data should be directed to Quoc Truong, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, Warrior Science, Technology, and Applied Research Directorate, ATTN: RDNS-WSC-C, 15 Kansas Street, Natick, MA 01760.
For more information, email Roberta Ciaramicoli or phone 508.233.4377.