Lightening the Load

A better understanding of the sensing and biocidal characteristics could soon translate to a lighter, more protective uniform for warfighters facing biological threats.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency‘s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department/JSTO-funded researchers, managed by Dr. Brian Pate of DTRA CB and performed by a team including Eric Hill and Dr. David Whitten at the University of New Mexico, recently reported a new understanding of the molecular interactions and photophysics of conjugated polymers with sensing and biocidal capabilities.

The study coupled experimental and simulation methods, to reveal the impact of carboxyester groups and hydrogen bonding on hydration, aggregation and fluorescence quenching, as well as new means to control the aggregation modes and photophysics of these compounds. Due to their potential for multi-agent neutralization, biocides might provide the means to produce protective garment materials capable of self-detoxification without increasing garment weight and or heat stress burdens on the wearer.

Recent results published in the Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry in an article titled, “The influence of structured interfacial water on the photolumi nescence of carboxyester-terminated oligo-p-phenylene ethynylenes,” described the influence of interfacial water on the photophysical properties of carboxyesterase substituted compounds in this class of molecules.

This was accomplished using an analysis of the aggregation with ionic surfactants, solvent isotope effects, and classical molecular dynamics simulations. The results of this study revealed that the presence of carboxyester groups leads to highly structured interfacial water and results in quenched fluorescence. The results also indicated that hydrogen bonding is essential for aggregate formation.

These efforts should help develop a new class of light activated polymers and coatings with biocidal properties for use as antimicrobial agents.

This successful development of three component quencher-tether-ligand molecule systems has potential applications in high-throughput drug screening, medical and clinical diagnostics, and fundamental research.

The analytical method is homogenous and does not require the multiple-step washing of conventional assays, and it yields results instantaneously compared to the hours or even days required for Chemical-Biological Defense Program relevant bioagent identification, such as the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAS).

Better, self-detoxifying protective garments that weigh less and are less cumbersome are seen as some of the ways warfighters could get protections from this development.

From JSTO in the NEWS
By the Defense Threat Reduction Agency‘s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department
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