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Dupont Joins Effort To Use Nanotech To Enhance Safety Of Soldiers

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Cambridge - May 27, 2003
DuPont will be serving as a founding partner of the new Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, which today officially opened its 28,000-square foot research and development facility at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The U.S. Army Research Office and MIT recently initiated the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) -- a $50 million and 150-person initiative that will serve as the Army's center of expertise in the application of nanotechnology.

The ISN's goal will be to increase the "protection and survivability" of U.S. soldiers with new technologies that target six priorities: threat detection, threat neutralization, automated medical treatment, concealment, enhanced human performance and reduced logistical footprint.

Reducing logistical footprints are especially important to an in-field soldier whose standard-issue gear now weighs upwards of 100 pounds. The goal is reducing the load to about 45 pounds.

The high-tech uniforms and gear are the key components of the U.S. Department of Defense's vision for flexible, self-sufficient soldiers who could be quickly inserted into rugged and unpredictable terrain such as Afghanistan.

DuPont participated in the initial proposal for the ISN and was selected as a founding industrial partner. DuPont is exploring nanotechnology and developing protective lightweight molecular materials to equip the U.S. soldier of the future with uniforms and gear that help protect them, shield them and heal them in the field.

Specifically, DuPont researchers are developing revolutionary nanotechnology-based materials that can be used in field-ready products, including innovative and protective lightweight uniforms and "smart" gear.

examples of "smart" functionality include:

  • change colors on command to camouflage in changing environments -- even manipulate light to make soldiers invisible in the field.
  • change a shirtsleeve into a splint or a pant leg into a rigid cast in the field if a soldier is injured.
  • possess built-in sensors so that each soldier's physical conditions and location in battlefields can be monitored at distant command posts.
  • weave radio communications materials directly into the uniform's fabric � providing soldiers flexibility and lighter loads.
  • automatically administer medicines and transmit vital signs to distant medics � who could then potentially perform medical triage on soldiers in the field.
  • provide impact protection materials and systems including ballistic and shrapnel.
  • provide chemical and biological protection materials and systems.

Other ISN industrial partners are Raytheon, Partners Healthcare, Dow Corning, Triton Systems, Dendritic Nanotechnologies, Nomadics, Carbon Nanotechnologies, and W.L. Gore and Associates.

"As a science company, we realize that partnerships succeed when each member fulfills a separate and specific role in determining the relevance of the project, creating unique opportunities or providing commercialization capabilities," said DuPont Chief Science and Technology Officer Thomas M. Connelly.

"The Institute for Nanotechnology forges the strength of its three pillars: the U.S. Army's determination of relevance, MIT's vast research capabilities, and DuPont's and other industry partners' abilities to transform ideas into commercial realities. Together, we can make outstanding advancements in this important safety and protection initiative."

"Our industrial partners are a key part of accomplishing our mission," said Director of the ISN Ned Thomas. "We need their expertise in transitioning technology in order to turn basic science into real products for real soldiers."

Although the final U.S. soldier's uniform of the future is still several years away, researchers expect their work at the ISN will pay off sooner for the civilian world.

Ferromagnetic materials already are used to reduce vibration in engines; other commercial use will come in stronger materials and novel microphotonic devices. DuPont scientists expect the same innovative, nanotechnology-based uniforms that they are developing for soldiers will also protect law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other emergency responders in the future, too.

Nanotechnology is the science and technology for manipulating chemistry and biology at the molecular and atomic levels. Nanotechnology involves the ability to create and adjust molecular structures to create potentially new materials, devices, machines or objects. The term "nanotechnology" comes from nanometer � one-billionth of a meter in length.

DuPont service to the U.S. government spans 200 years, starting in 1802 with Thomas Jefferson urging founder E.I. du Pont to start a business in Delaware to manufacture black powder for the American's need of a domestic supply of high-quality gun powder. In addition, when astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon, he wore a space suit of 25 separate layers -- 23 layers were DuPont materials.

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