Barrier Materials

Chemical warfare agents (CWAs) pose a serious threat to military personnel performing critical missions in the battle field across the world.  Polymer-films, -textiles, and -chemically reactive membranes have gained significant attentin in recent years for their potential to act as barriers, permeable membranes, and/or self-detoxifying reactive surfaces for protectioo 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 CWAs occur at the material surface where a chemical first adsorbs.  In addition, the unique properties of cutting-edge polymer technologies are overwhelmingly governed by their distinct and highly adaptable surface functionalities and their interactions with atmospheric contituents as well as the CWAs.

Using nonlinear optical spectroscopic techniques, Boise Technology is currently investingating the fundamentl 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 macroscope surface properties of the materials, this unique surface perspective helps to provide insight into structure-function/structure-activity relationships that will 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 measurementt of chemical and ciological 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 DOD.

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