Research

Current research activities at Boise Technology, Inc. include three main areas of interest that focus on gaining a molecular level view of the interactions, molecular conformation, and spectral signatures of surface species at various solid/vapor surfaces. Vibrational sum frequency generation spectroscopy (VSFG), a nonlinear optical surface specific analytical technique, is the primary analysis tool used in these studies.

Three areas of fundamental research are funded by the Department of Defense. Funding provided through the US Navy is focused towards investigations into important barrier materials and their surface interactions with atmospheric constituents and chemical warfare agent simulants.  The US Army has provided funding to support studies of self-decontaminating materials for protection against chemical warfare agents. The US Air Force has provided funding to support studies aimed at developing a better understanding of the effects of microwave material preparation methods on the surface structure of material of interest.

Barrier Materials

Chemical warfare agents pose a serious threat to military personnel performing critical missions in battle fields across the world.  Polymer-films, -textiles, and -chemically reactive membranes have gained significant attention in recent years for their potential to act as barriers, permeable membranes, and/or self-detoxifying reactive surfaces for protection against these toxic chemicals for both civilian and military applications.  A vast majority of the important chemical and physical interactions that mediate the macroscopic protective behavior of polymer materials towards chemical warfare agents occur at the material surface where the chemical adsorbs.  In addition, the unique properties of cutting-edge polymer technologies are overwhelminingly governed by their distinct and highly adaptable surface functionalities and their interactions with atmospheric constituents in addition to the chemical warfare agents.

Using nonlinear optical spectroscopic techniques, Boise Technology is currently investigating the fundamental chemical and physical interactions at surfaces and interfaces in an effort to gain a greater mechanistic understanding of the numerous processes that occur at polymer surfaces including surface adsorption, desorption, permeability, and decontamination surface chemistry.  In this program, our research has elucidated molecular-level details about adsorbates interacting with material surfaces as well as highlighting surface structural changes in a material as a function of the adjacent molecular environment.  Coupled with measurements of the macroscopic surface properties of the materials, this unique surface perspective helps to provide insight into structure-function/structure-activity relationships that help to facilitate the systematic design of new barrier polymer coatings and textiles with superior protective properties.

This project has culminated in the successful construction and implementation of a state-of-the-art ultrafast nonlinear optical spectrometer capable of examining the vibrational and electronic signatures of surface molecular species and moieties.  Research under this project has most notably included the first measurement of chemical and biological weapon simulant molecules monitored at a buried liquid/liquid phase boundary as well as measurements of the effects of environmental variables on the surface structure of polymer materials of interest to the Department of Defense.

 

Reactive Materials

Self-decontaminating materials are an attractive alternative to existing barrier materials for providing next generation chemical and biological weapons protection capability for the Department of Defense.  The adoption of novel self-decontaminating materials could lead to significant improvements over present day barrier materials by reducing or eliminating the need for washing and decontamination while simultaneously enhancing protection by decreasing the risk of spreading the threat agent following chemical and biological weapons exposure.  The failure of current reactive materials to meet Department of Defense's stringent requirements is partially due to the lack of a fundamental and comprehensive understanding of the physical and chemical interactions between these materials and the surrounding environment and/or threat agent.  Because these interactions occur primarily at the material/environment (solid/vapor) interface, it is critical to form a more comprehensive molecular-level understanding of the relevant surface interactions in order to better define the structure/function and structure/activity relationships of these materials.

The objective of this program is to investigate and characterize molecular-level details of self-decontaminating material surfaces interacting with environmental constituents (e.g., water vapor and chemical and biological weapons simulants).  By gaining a better understanding of the relevant interactions and reaction mechanisms occurring at these material surfaces, Boise Technology is working with the Army to enable the rational design of improved self-decontaminating materials.  In an effort to provide the necessary molecular-level surface information, VSFG spectroscopy is used to investigate reactive material coatings under a variety of environmental conditions.  Coupled with measurements of the macroscopic surface properties and reactivity, this unique surface characterization helps to provide insight into structure-function/structure-activity relationships that will facilitate the systematic design of new self-decontaminating materials possessing superior personnel and equipment protection properties.

This project has culminated in the successful construction and implementation of our second state-of-the-art ultrafast nonlinear optical spectrometer capable of examining the vibrational signatures of surface molecular species spanning nearly the entire spectral region covered by a typical FTIR spectrometer.  Research through this program has most notably included the first measurement of the effects of environmental variables on the surface structure of reactive functionalities at the surface of self-decontaminating polymers.

 

Microwave Preparation Materials

Microwave assisted preparation of materials has become of great interest both technologically and scientifically since the first microwave-assisted synthesis was pioneered in 1986.  Although the use of microwave-assisted preparation of materials has increased significantly in recent years, in part due to the dramatic acceleration of reaction kinetics and improved yields observed using this method, its appropriate application and material response is poorly understood.  One area of interest even less understood than the bulk material's response to microwave treatments is how it affects the physical and chemical properties of the material's surface.  In order to realize the full potential of microwave-assisted materials preparation techniques for enhancing/manipulating material surface and interfacial properties, it is vital to understand their effects on the molecular-level properties (i.e. surface structure, functionality and interactions) that govern their macroscopic behavior.

The objective of this effort is to investigate and characterize the effects of microwave-assisted preparation of various polymeric and mineral materials using VSFG spectroscopy.  This effort is intended to develop a molecular-level understanding of the effects of microwave-assisted preparation methods on the surface structure, functionality and interactions of polymeric and mineral materials.  Understanding gleaned from this effort is being contrasted with previously investigated materials prepared using traditional convection heating (annealing/sintering) to better comprehend the benefits and/or problems of employing microwave-assisted methods on materials of interest to the Department of Defense.

 

 

 
 
 
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