Seshadri Ramkumar, Professor, Texas Tech University, USA
Recent work by the U. S. Army has shown that FiberTect wipe can also decontaminate biological toxin spores. With heightened political tensions in some regions of the world, high-tech sectors like defense, personnel protection and semiconductor are gaining due attention. Advanced textiles find applications such as decontamination wipes, body armor, medical textiles, wearables, etc.
Investment in science and technology to boost innovation and grow the economy is recognized as a high priority in the United States and United Kingdom amidst dire economic situations. The Chips Act in the United States and the recent Autumn Statement by the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of Exchequer are testimonies to the necessity. Chantilly, USA-based First Line Technology (FLT) has been working to develop multiple applications for the nonwoven wipe, “FiberTect” that can contribute to global security. FiberTect technology evolved from my invention at Texas Tech University. FiberTect is a platform technology based on its universality to wipe away different CBRN agents, as well as with the use of different fibers such as cotton, polyester, and blends as absorbent layers, depending on the application and need.
“FiberTect was one of the first patented technologies out of Texas Tech University, and through industry partnership with First Line Technology and Hobbs Bonded Fibers, it has proven to be one of the most widely commercialized from TTU over the past two decades,” stated Cameron Smith, Director of Commercialization at TTU System. FLT’s continued efforts are taking FiberTect to the next level making it a universal wipe for chemical, biological and radiological protection. The recent effort by the U. S. Army has shown that FiberTect is able to efficiently wipe away toxic microbes such as bacterial spores just using the dry FiberTect wipe. This method is advocated for cold weather regions of the world where liquid freezes making wet decontamination methods inefficient, such as the Siachen glacier, and other high-altitude regions. This study showed FiberTect dry wipe can decontaminate Bacillus atrophaeus var. globigii (BG) spores up to 94.93 percent. This research proves the applicability of FiberTect nonwoven wipe against biological toxins in addition to its efficacy against chemical agents like mustard gas and fentanyl particles.
“FiberTect was originally developed for toxic liquid chemicals such as chemical warfare agents, but it has proven equally effective at the physical removal of fine powders like fentanyl and weaponized bio-agents,” stated Corey Collings, Director of Research and Development at FLT. “There is a need to develop functional products that can sense and wipe away opioids and fentanyl products. These products although used in pain treatments are regulated items that need good control and hence there is a need to develop effective decontamination products such as wipes,” stated Dr. Vaclav Trojan of the International Clinical Research Center at Brno-based Masaryk University, Czech Republic. Adsorbent and absorbent wipes like FiberTect can play a vital role in wiping away fine particles that contain fentanyl compounds, added Trojan.
Dr. Jan Halamek, Director of the Institute for Forensic Science at Texas Tech University expressed the need for such high-tech wipes. “United States is going through an unparalleled opioid crisis, where fentanyl and its analogs represent the deadliest drug threat we have ever encountered. Highly porous and absorbent wipes like FiberTect can be used as a decontamination countermeasure for fentanyl, which gives forensic scientists a tool to detect and decontaminate illicit drugs” stated Halamek. FLT is advocating the “Blot-Apply-Remove,” method that uses a dry FiberTect wipe to wipe away bulk toxic agents. A small amount of reactive agent is applied followed by again wiping with FiberTect. “The highly absorptive nature of FiberTect makes it far superior to paper towels or other absorbents in this procedure,” stated Corey Collings.
Translating research from the laboratory to marketplace is critical these days for national security, economic growth, and job creation. FiberTect is a good model for such an activity, that showcases public-private partnerships. Initial applied research was supported by the United States’ government and the private sector picked up the technology after robust evaluation by a United States’ National Laboratory. “Universities are critical to the technology commercialization process, providing not only foundational research but also translational research, directly impacting the commercial market and economy with new technologies,” stated Cameron Smith.
Jana Kesavan et al., Evaluation of Cold Weather Decontamination Methods, American Journal of Disaster Medicine, Vol. 17 (1), 2022, pp. 13-21.
S. Ramkumar, “Process for Making Chemical Protective Wipes and Such Wipes,” U. S. Patent 7,516,525, April 2009.
A Better Method for Self-Decontamination, Lawrence Livermore National laboratory, S & TR, March 2009, pp. 20-22.