DuPont developing new protective suits for military, first responders

09/10/04

Suits offer resistance to chemical & biological agents

WILMINGTON, Del., Sept. 10, 2004 – DuPont today announced promising research in the fight against terrorism with the development of protective materials that are resistant to chemical and biological agents. The suits are targeted for use by U.S. soldiers, firefighters, and other first responders. Early feedback from wearers has been positive.

The U.S. government has awarded nearly $2.5 million to DuPont and its partners to assist in the development of this new technology. Prototype military garments were recently tested by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick).

Prototypes of firefighter turnout gear were shown at the recent International Association of Fire Chiefs show in New Orleans. In addition to traditional DuPont fire resistant materials, DuPontTM Nomex® and Kevlar®, these new, lightweight suits contain a selectively permeable membrane developed by DuPont that will help protect front line defenders from toxic industrial chemicals and military warfare agents.

Through the process of selective transport -- the diffusion of water across a selectively permeable membrane -- this membrane allows sweat evaporation and body heat to escape to keep wearers cooler while blocking harmful agents from entering the suit. The new suits for the military are expected to be up to 50 percent lighter than existing protective gear, are impermeable to aerosols and biological agents and will fit compactly in a small duffel bag.

"In this post-9/11 environment, first responders and firefighters throughout the country are saying they need improved protection from weapons of mass destruction without compromising the weight and existing protection of their turnout gear," said Dale Outhous, DuPont Personal Protection business director. "We believe this emerging technology could revolutionize gear for both first responders and military personnel. The new suits should be lighter, more compact, more breathable and resistant to chemical and biological warfare agents. It's just one example of the R&D pipeline from the DuPont Safety & Protection platform where we are developing new products to help keep people safe and protected."

On Aug. 30, the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center at Natick, Mass., awarded a $1.5 million cooperative agreement to DuPont scientists for the military application of the technology. Earlier this year, the U.S. Office of Homeland Security awarded North Carolina State University, in partnership with DuPont and Globe Firefighter Suits, a $830,000 grant to develop the next generation of firefighter turnout gear.

Dr. Roger Barker, head of the Textile Protection and Comfort Center (TPACC) at N.C. State's College of Textiles said, "The best firefighter suits today offer protection against several chemicals, such as battery acid, but that protection is limited. This suit is going to take that protection to an entirely new level with a wider range of chemical resistance at higher levels."

The DuPont Safety & Protection platform is focused on finding solutions to protect people, property, operations and the environment. The platform seeks to leverage and expand over 200 years of DuPont experience as one of the safest companies in the world with recognized excellence in science and technology and in-depth knowledge of key markets.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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