A process for binding compounds onto fabrics and other surfaces has been licensed to Cambridge, UK-based Alexium by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
The Reactive Surface Treatment (RST) is a unique process that uses microwaves to durably bind 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.
The RST process was invented by the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate of the AFRL to provide protection from warfare 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 odours, the technology has a long-lasting protective effect.
Jeff Owens, the US Air Force inventor, said: ‘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.’
Alexium’s initial focus is on apparel for the US military, chemical/biological protective gear, fire protection for upholstery and nylon fabrics, fuel-shedding flame-retardant textiles, filtration, and paint for military and commercial markets.