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Indicator Chemicals for In-theater Inkjet Assay Production


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Chem Bio Defense

OBJECTIVE: Develop, demonstrate, validate, and produce indicator reagents to enable on-demand, in-theater printing of low-user-burden chemical and biological threat detection and identification assays on COTS inkjet printers.

DESCRIPTION: Low-burden, inexpensive, and eye-readable assays such as M8 paper, litmus paper, and assays for protein or ATP (adenosine triphosphate) are common first line tests performed on an unknown in order to determine if it is innocuous or a potential threat.Inkjet printing can be used to produce these types of color-change assays at the point of need by replacing standard ink cartridges with indicator reagent cartridges.On-demand printing can also be used to produce purpose-built assays tailored to the task at hand by selecting relevant indicators to combine together on assays customized in size and format.Inkjet printing also permits the deposition of indicators on a range of substrates including fabrics and adhesive-backed materials to create custom contamination and exposure indicators for personnel, vehicles, and fixed or temporary structures, expanding an intuitive sensing modality (observable color change) to multiple concepts of operation and employment. To enable these capabilities, additional development is required to formulate more color-changing indicators for inkjet printing.The availability of a wide range of chemical indicators which respond to relevant threats with high-contrast color changes works towards the goal of a comprehensive chemical and biological sensing capability.Inexpensive, low-burden, and low-false-alarm threat awareness is essential for maintaining lethality and achieving mission success when operating in a chemical or biological environment.Formulated indicators should be compatible with COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) inkjet printers using aqueous ink systems, and should be stable, stored in cartridges, for at least two years.Initial printed colors of the indicators should be highly consistent and compatible with a wide range of COTS inkjet printing substrates.

PHASE I: Conduct a feasibility study of indicator chemicals useful against chemical and/or biological targets, demonstrating methods to formulate at least four of these indicators for inkjet printing.Propose and describe concepts of operation for the deployment sensing capability using on-demand printing of indicators and estimate system costs.These formulated indicators, a report on their development, and concept-of-employment descriptions will be the deliverables from this phase.

PHASE II: Mature concepts into a prototype system:Identify and prepare a panel of indicators to treat major classes of TIC/TIM/CWA (toxic industrial chemicals / toxic industrial materials / chemical warfare agent) materials.Formulate these indicators for printing, optimizing printed optical density, consistency, and storage life.Perform storage studies and characterize responses across a range of printing substrates.Develop cost information for production and sustainment of printing systems using these indicators.Develop a capability demonstration based on these materials and participate in a field trial, operational analysis event, or other Warfighter-attended event to obtain direct user feedback.These formulated indicators, a report on their development, and a report on a field demonstration activity will be the deliverables form this phase.

PHASE III: Refine and validate the prototype system.In addition, working with appropriate partners, identify or develop indicators against novel and emerging threats and add these targets to the system.Establish manufacturing processes and transition to commercial and military customers.Phase III Dual-Use Applications Military needs alone will not likely be a sole driver for this technology or approach.However, there are a variety of potential non-military users which include various aspects of chemical manufacturing (leak detection, process monitoring and validation, chemical hygiene), civilian first responders, food processing, and biomaterials research and production.Therefore the proposed concept of operation and commercialization plans should consider nonmilitary markets.

KEYWORDS: Chemical, Biological, Sensing, Maneuver Support, Expeditionary, On-Demand Production, Low-Burden


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