Early feedback from wearers has been positive, according to DuPont, and the U.S. government has awarded nearly $2.5 million to DuPont and its partners to assist in the development of this new technology. Prototype military garments were recently tested by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick).
Prototypes of firefighter turnout gear were shown at the recent International Association of Fire Chiefs show in New Orleans. In addition to traditional DuPont fire resistant materials – Nomex® and Kevlar® – these new, lightweight suits contain a selectively permeable membrane developed by DuPont that will help protect front line defenders from toxic industrial chemicals and military warfare agents.
"In this post-9/11 environment, first responders and firefighters throughout the country are saying they need improved protection from weapons of mass destruction without compromising the weight and existing protection of their turnout gear," said Dale Outhous, DuPont Personal Protection business director. "The new suits should be lighter, more compact, more breathable and resistant to chemical and biological warfare agents."
Through the process of selective transport – the diffusion of water across a selectively permeable membrane – the membrane in the suits allows sweat evaporation and body heat to escape to keep wearers cooler while blocking harmful agents from entering the suit. The new suits for the military are expected to be up to 50 percent lighter than existing protective gear, are impermeable to aerosols and biological agents and will fit compactly in a small duffel bag.
Dr. Roger Barker, head of the Textile Protection and Comfort Center (TPACC) at North Carolina State's College of Textiles said, "The best firefighter suits today offer protection against several chemicals, such as battery acid, but that protection is limited. This suit is going to take that protection to an entirely new level with a wider range of chemical resistance at higher levels."