Revolutionary Tech to Help Deal with Hazardous Materials

hazardous materials
Members of a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) team test the snow for chemical contamination, during the force protection exercise and Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) training conducted at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

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The cumbersome protective equipment used by troops and first responders dealing with hazardous materials often hinders the rapid accomplishment of missions. A new development could help solve this problem.

Revolutionary fabrics will be incorporated into protective suits and other equipment such as boots, gloves, and eye protection that can be worn by troops on the battlefield, medical experts, healthcare workers, and more. FLIR Systems has won a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to rapidly develop novel fabrics with embedded catalysts and chemistries that can fight and reduce chemical and biological threats upon contact. 

The goal of DARPA’s Personalized Protective Biosystems (PPB) program is to reduce the substantial weight and physiological burden of current Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so soldiers and other specialists can better perform their tasks. The program will combine novel, lightweight protective materials with new prophylactic medical technologies that mitigate chemical and biological threats at vulnerable tissue barriers, notably the eyes, skin and lungs. 

The complete system will enable troops and first responders to operate without the burden of carrying and wearing PPE, which can cause heat stress and reduce time spent completing the mission.

FLIR received $11.2 million in initial funding for the potential five-year effort worth up to $20.5 million, including options.

FLIR and its teaming partners will develop a prototype fabric material, the Integrated Soldier Protective System (ISPS), for testing by government laboratories. The result after five years will be a suite of prototype protective fabrics and garments ready for transition to a program of record with the U.S. Department of Defense, according to the company’s announcement.