Technology giant Alexium has signed a new cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Airbase Technologies Division, Tyndall AFB, in Florida, U.S.A.
The new agreement will see Alexium and the AFRL collaborate to advance the development and transition of products to the military and civilian markets, specifically the commercialisation of the award-winning Reactive Surface Treatment (RST) technology.
Alexium’s Reactive Surface Treatment (RST) is a patented technology for nanoscopic coatings that combines advanced materials chemistry with an innovative processing step. The technology allows the company to develop performance characteristics and materials which that help leapfrog many conventional technology barriers.
Under the agreement Alexium and the AFRL will explore RST technology on a variety of materials, integrate nanoparticles developed by the Air Force in various RST treatment applications, and demonstrate a commercially feasible and scalable production process. The result is expected to lead to greater soldier protection from chemical and biological threats as well as improved materials used in military and commercial applications.
Recent developments by Alexium have also seen significant improvements in RST liquid repellency treatments for chemical/biological protection applications. Improvements include:
- Cleanshell CB now offers even higher liquid repellency performance, tuned specifically to chemical warfare agent (CWA) simulants such as tributylphosphate (TBP).
- Outershell fabrics treated with Cleanshell CB protect the outershell fabric from TBP penetration for days.
According to Alexium, these improvements are a significant “industry step-change” over conventional fluorocarbon repellency treatments, which offer only minutes of TBP protection.
Cleanshell CB repellency treatment is currently being evaluated at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center and Alexium expects to enter US
The company holds proprietary patent applications for a process developed initially by the US Department of Defence, which allows for the surface modification and attachment of nano particles or multiple chemical functional groups to surfaces or substrates to provide functions such as water proofing, oil proofing, anti-microbial, non-stick and UV protection.
Applications currently under development include but are not limited to textiles, paints, packaging, glass and building materials.
Alexium’s Reactive Surface Treatment (RST) uses “cold” microwave energy to direct a precursor’s polymerisation onto a substrate’s surface. Based on the precursor’s chemistry, the substrate’s material properties, and the solution used to mix these, the resulting nanoscopic coating may chemically bond to the substrate or simply form an intractable coating at the substrate surface.
This flexibility allows a wide range of materials to be treated — many of which cannot be functionalised with a durable coating via other methods. An example of this is shown for a para-aramid fabric that has been treated with an oil and water repellent nanoscopic coating via RST. With this fabric that is traditionally difficult to treat, these SEM images demonstrate the scale and structure of the applied coatings which encase the fibers.
Alexium’s RST process allows for durable coatings with multiple functions in a single process step. RST is not a “line of site” process and operates under atmospheric conditions. It is a robust treatment method that can be applied in a continuous production line (e.g. reel-to-reel treatment of textiles) or in a batch reactor (e.g. nanoparticle or paint additive treatments).
Materials are generally only exposed to seconds of “cold” microwave energy, inducing the formation of nanoscopic coatings on the substrate surface. The process can easily be scaled to meet the customer’s production speed, and, due to its compact footprint and ease of operation, can be integrated into existing customer production lines without major retrofits.
Performance & benefits
Alexium’s RST process offers the ability to apply nano-scale coatings at the industrial scale.
The RST process can be applied to a nearly limitless number of materials. By coupling unique methods of materials synthesis with a microwave applicator, Alexium is able to graft and crosslink chemical groups to a wide range of materials, including natural polymers, synthetic polymers and inorganic substrates.
Using off-the-shelf chemicals and environmentally-friendly solutions, the RST process delivers performance treatments in a “smarter,” more precise and cost-efficient manner.
The process is extremely cost-effective: low capital costs, low energy costs, low operating costs, and less waste product – significantly reducing the overall carbon footprint over conventional or competitive technologies. For many customers, the ability to reduce the energy consumption costs of existing silane coupling processes is a major driver to moving towards this technology.
The ability to incorporate multiple functional treatments into a single coating is a unique benefit. For example, Alexium has applied RST to produce multi-functional textile coatings that are antimicrobial, flame-retardant, and oil and water shedding. Beyond replacing existing material treatments, Alexium has opened the door for new generation of smart materials, including producing oil/water repellent aramids and treating filer media.