A groundbreaking and award-winning nanotechnology process for binding compounds onto fabrics and other surfaces has been licensed to Alexium, Ltd., by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Alexium is based in Cambridge, U.K., with U.S. headquarters in Dayton, Ohio. With this addition to its product line, the company is ramping up its U.S. operations and planning to commercialize the technology internationally.
Reactive Surface Treatment (RST) is a unique nanotech process and application method that uses microwaves to durably bind commercial off-the-shelf compounds to materials, including fabrics, filters, glass, paper, building materials, and fillers for paints and coatings. When applied to a fabric, the process can, for example, create multifunctional garments that are flame-retardant, waterproof, antibacterial, and oil-resistant. These protective properties can be applied separately or in combination. A regular nylon/cotton battle dress uniform fabric treated by the RST process can, for example, be sprayed with fuel, then be ignited, and be self-extinguishing and water-repellent. The protection this process provides is invaluable to the military, first responders, for workwear, and racing industries, where fire is a hazard.
The RST process was invented by the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate of the AFRL to provide collective and individual protection from warfare agents. The uniqueness of the process lies in its ability to repel and at the same time neutralize threats. Its efficacy has been demonstrated in numerous trials, including ungerminated anthrax spores, which it kills.
The technology was developed originally as a multi-functional first line of defense to protect individual troops from biowarfare agents by treating clothing and gear surfaces. An early application was the creation of self-cleaning fabrics that resist soiling and kill bacteria that grow in sweat-permeated clothing. Besides eliminating odors, the technology has a long-lasting protective effect. According to Jeff Owens, the Air Force inventor, "We treated T-shirts and underwear for soldiers who tested them for several weeks [in Iraq] and found that they remained hygienic as the clothing was actively killing the bacteria. They also helped clear up skin complaints in those testing them."
Stefan Susta, U.S. Operations Manager for Alexium, says the technology can create military fabrics that are self-extinguishing in fire, antimicrobial, oil-resistant, super-waterproof and chemical agent-reactive. Alexium is pursuing commercial spinoff applications for the paint, filtration, first responders, wound care, building materials, and technical fiber markets.
The RST technology took the platinum prize at the 2009 WBTshowcase, an annual global investment and licensing forum for emerging technologies. The platinum prize is the highest award given and confers the title of "World's Best Technology" on the winner. Alexium's technology was chosen from among more than 90 entries. Competing technologies represented 27 states and 11 foreign countries.
Alexium's initial focus is on apparel for the U.S. military, first responder and chemical/biological protection gear, fire protection for upholstery and nylon fabrics, fuel-shedding flame-retardant textiles, filtration, and paint for military and commercial markets. Following will be other diverse applications ranging from anti-infective wound dressings, nurses' uniforms, and hospital bedding to air conditioning filters on planes and cruise ships and building materials.
TechLink, the Department of Defense partnership intermediary that works nationwide, assisted the AFRL and Alexium throughout the licensing process, helping to keep the process moving steadily and smoothly.