CHICAGO—A U.S. Army research center awarded an initial $9 million contract to NuMat Technologies, Inc., to develop and manufacture next-generation materials that will protect and sustain soldiers from toxic weapons attacks. This investment will create dual-use technological advancements that will transform the defense sector, as well as the microelectronics, life science, energy, and industrial sectors.
The U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command Chemical and Biological Center (RDECOM C&B Center) awarded the contract to NuMat Technologies, Inc., a U.S. technology company innovating at the intersection of high-performance computing, chemistry, and engineered systems.
“We are excited to bring our state-of-the-art technology to the warfighter, including advanced, toxic industrial chemical filtration, purification, and abatement,” said Benjamin Hernandez, NuMat founder and CEO, in a press release. “NuMat’s unique materials and processes will provide unparalleled protection and support in the field while also creating new capabilities for the future.”
As new threats emerge from unknown toxic agents, new tools are necessary for soldiers. Often the first on the ground after a release of toxic chemicals, members of the military require state-of-the-art technology that will filter out toxins and aid with cleanup after an event.
A novel group of nano-porous materials called metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, provide innovative solutions for reinventing gas masks, breathing apparatus, and other key gear necessary for protecting and sustaining soldiers. Highly programmable, MOFs have much higher surface areas for adsorption of toxic chemicals than incumbent technologies.
“RDECOM C&B Center prides itself on being the forefront of protecting our warfighter and our nation from chemical or biological attacks,” said Suzanne Milchling, director of engineering. “Our continued mission is to support our nation though such innovative research and development.”
NuMat is among the first companies in the world to commercialize MOFs, applying them first in the electronics and specialty gas sectors. Their use in gas masks and other defense technology would be a first for MOFs, and the new partnership represents a significant investment in the cutting-edge nanomaterials.
“We have already demonstrated that particular MOFs are highly effective at reacting with toxic gases, such as nerve agents and toxic industrial chemicals, at the lab scale,” said Greg Peterson, a research chemical engineer within RDECOM C&B Center. “Now our goal is to integrate these materials into a variety of fielded items across the chemical and biological defense commodity area.”
With the new funding, NuMat will be building the world’s first dedicated, commercial-scale manufacturing site for MOFs and a state-of-the art application development lab for next-generation filtration and purification technologies. The goal is to expand NuMat’s domestic manufacturing capabilities and to decrease the unit costs for MOFs.
The same filtration technology that will protect the warfighter in the field can be leveraged to provide superior filtration technology across industries. The microelectronics, life sciences, and industrial sectors, for example, all require cutting-edge purification and abatement technology for many of the same gases and chemicals in the defense sector.
“NuMat is broadening the impact of MOFs through new and innovative applications,” said Omar Farha, founder of NuMat and professor at Northwestern University. “Entering the defense market will provide new protection for the modern warfighter while expanding the research and capabilities for this exciting area of materials science.”
NuMat Technologies (www.numat-tech.com) works with leading partners in the microelectronics, life-sciences, defense, industrial, and energy sectors to design, build, and deliver molecularly engineered products and systems. NuMat is a recognized pioneer in the field of metal-organic frameworks — MOFs — an emerging class of nano-porous materials.
The U.S. Army RDECOM C&B Center (www.ecbc.army.mil) is the primary Department of Defense (DoD) technical organization for non-medical CB defense.