Defense and Military Applications of Nanomaterials

The rapidly evolving landscape of national defense and security demands innovative solutions. From next-generation IR decoy flares and broad-spectrum obscurant devices to saliva-based point-of-care injury diagnostics, nanomaterials hold immense promise for developing unprecedented capabilities and advantages to the field. Listed below are some case studies highlighting the use of our nanoparticles for research in advancing defense and military applications.

Protection from Near-Infrared Lasers with Plasmonic Nanomaterials

The increasing use of non-visible, near-infrared (NIR) lasers poses a threat to both warfighters and sensitive optics-based technologies. Current solutions use filters based on organic dyes or reflective films, which have limitations such as poor stability or angle-dependent performance. nanoComposix worked with the US Air Force to address these challenges through engineered plasmonic nanoparticles, which offer tunable absorption, high stability, and angle-independent performance. Integrating these nanomaterials into thin films enabled broad-spectrum NIR absorption while maintaining high visible light transmittance. These passive coatings can provide enhanced protection for warfighters and safeguard sensitive optics, ultimately improving national defense and security.

Funding Agency: Department of Defense, US Air Force

Highly Compressed Aerosolizable Nanopowders as a Broadband Obscurant

Current smokes and obscurants offer limited effectiveness, requiring separate munitions for visible and infrared blocking. nanoComposix worked with the US Army to develop a high extinction anisotropic nanopowder that was compression packed in a grenade format to produce an obscuration device that rapidly creates a visible and infrared blocking cloud for personnel and vehicle protection. This technology offers unparalleled control over the visible to far infrared spectrum, with the potential to hinder tracking systems and sensors across multiple operational conditions.

Funding Agency: Department of Defense, US Army

Revolutionizing Thermal Control for Future Space Missions Using Nanofluids

Missions involving space travel are inherently weight-restricted and require advanced thermal management solutions. nanoComposix worked with NASA to harness the unique thermal properties of high aspect ratio plasmonic nanomaterials to design a groundbreaking nanofluid technology to meet this need. Precisely engineered nanoparticles enabled significantly enhanced thermal conductivity and critical heat flux at incredibly low concentrations. The miniscule size of the nanoparticles eliminated concerns about settling, abrasion, or clogging, allowing seamless integration into existing thermal systems. Additionally, the inherent antimicrobial properties of the nanomaterials used provided a non-toxic approach to combat biofouling and biocorrosion within coolant loops.

Funding Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Next-Gen IR Decoys: Protecting Aircraft with Advanced Nanomaterials

Military aircraft rely on IR decoy flares to evade heat-seeking missiles. nanoComposix worked with the US Navy to develop a next-generation design incorporating pyrophoric nanoparticles that offered significant advantages over traditional pyrotechnic technology, including reduced fire risk, covert operation, and a spectral signature that better deceives advanced missile guidance systems. nanoComposix fabricated and tested these materials to demonstrate rapid heat generation upon exposure to air and tailored the spectral signature for improved decoy performance with the aim to safeguard aircraft and crew in the face of evolving missile threats.

Funding Agency: Department of Defense, US Navy

Rapid Saliva-Based Diagnostics for Battlefield Health Monitoring

The ever-present threat of chemical exposure in the field requires rapid and adaptable diagnostics techniques to minimize harm and improve treatment outcomes. nanoComposix worked with the US Defense Health Agency to develop a new class of saliva-based lateral flow assays that detect the body's response to toxic chemicals by measuring a panel of validated biomarkers for organ injury. These rapid, inexpensive, and accurate tests were designed for use with a smartphone-based reader, compatible with existing soldier equipment, to quantify and interpret results on-site. This technology has the potential to significantly improve early detection and intervention for chemical exposure, ultimately safeguarding soldier health and mission effectiveness.

Funding Agency: Department of Defense, US Defense Health Agency

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