Research
Microwave Assisted Preparation of Materials

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

The objective of this effort is to investigate and characterize the effects of MW-assisted preparation of various polymeric and mineral materials using vibrational sum frequency generation spectroscopy.  This effort is intended to develop a molecular-level understanding of the effects of MW-assisted preparation methods on the surface structure, functionality and interactions of polymeric and mineral materials.  Insight gleaned from this effort is being compared and and controled with previously investigated materials prepared using traditional convection heating (annealing/sintering) to better comprehend the benefits and/or drawbacks of employing MW-assisted methods on materials of interest to the DOD.

 
Reactive Materials

Self-decontaminating materials are an attractive alternative to existing barrier materials for providing next generatin chemical and biological weapons (CB) protection capability for the DOD.  The adoption of novel self-decontaminating materials is expected to lead to significant improvements over present day barrier materials by reducing or eliminating the need for washing and decontamination while simultaneously enhancing protection by decerasing the risk of spreading the threat agent following CBW exposure.  The failure of current reactive materials to meet DOD'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 sturcture/activity relationships of these materials.

The objective of this program is to investigate and characterize molecular-level details of self-decontaminating material surfaces ineracting with environmental constituents (e.g., water vapor and CBW 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 facilitate 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 thin film reactive material coatings under a variety of environmental conditions.  Coupled with measurements of the macrosopic surface properties and reactivity, this unique surface characterization helps to provide insight into structure-function/structuer-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 under 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.

 

 
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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