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Military Uniform Fabric Produced with Hemp Fibers

Description:

RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): General Warfighting Requirements

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials / Processes

OBJECTIVE: Develop a higher performing uniform fabric using hemp fibers.

DESCRIPTION: Hemp fibers have been used for thousands of years in textile products such as sacks, ropes, and fishnets. Today, hemp fibers are woven into clothing, cordage, curtains, rope, carpets, burlap, sacking, and shoes. Clothing produced with hemp fibers are strong, UV and mold resistant, making it an excellent fiber for outdoor wear. Hemp, due to its propensity to have a rougher hand than some other natural fibers, such as cotton, is typically blended with other fibers for clothing end uses. Compared to cotton, hemp is more environmentally friendly and less costly to cultivate; it does not require pesticides or fertilizers, needs less water, and renews the soil with each growth cycle. Its long roots prevent erosion and help retain the topsoil. As a result of these favorable properties, university research within the United States into hemp plant production, fibers, and fabric is rising.

The desired end result would be a uniform fabric with significant performance benefits, compared to the current Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU) fabric. The significant performance benefits may include, but not be limited to, a lower cost, lighter weight, more durable, more comfortable, and environmentally friendly fabric. The fabric would need to be produced with standard textile manufacturing processes and be Berry Amendment compliant. In order to demonstrate the performance benefits, the hemp-containing fabric would be compared to the existing uniform fabric (i.e., MCCUU fabric). The fabric should meet and exceed many of the requirements as defined in the MCCUU requirement document, the MCCUU Purchase Description [Ref 4]. Some fabric properties, such as a lower fabric weight and improved durability as compared to the current MCCUU fabric, are highly desired. A lighter weight uniform will reduce the load Marines need to carry and a more durable uniform will be less likely to fail (e.g., tear) in the field.

Additional desired attributes are the ability to provide vector protection (e.g., protection from insects), improved flame resistance (i.e., ability to self-extinguish), and camouflage protection beyond the current visual and near infrared requirement.

All hemp products must comply with 21 USC 802(16). Only hemp products containing less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis are allowable.

PHASE I: Conduct research on and determine the performance levels of hemp fabric, as compared to existing MCCUU fabric. Validation/tests should demonstrate where the fabric meets and exceeds the MCCUU fabric requirements, as defined in the MCCUU Purchase Description [Ref 4]. Develop a Phase II plan for prototype production.

Provide at least one MCCUU set (blouse and trouser) or an equivalent amount of fabric to the Marine Corps for Marine Corps testing and evaluation.

PHASE II: Optimize the material properties based on Marine Corps evaluation results and feedback in Phase I, and scale up the production process to reduce manufacturing costs. Provide at least an additional 10 MCCUU sets to the Marine Corps for evaluation based on the performance criteria in the MCCUU Purchase Description.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Demonstrate the suitability of the material in a clothing design and field evaluation. Integrate the material into relevant items for system level testing, evaluation, and demonstration. Provide at least 100 MCCUU sets to the Marine Corps for evaluation.

Commercial potential of this technology for use in durable outdoor wear is significant and may have a pronounced benefit to the United States garment industry as hemp-contained fabric could be used in cotton-blend clothing. The growth of hemp to support this industry would be more environmentally friendly and potentially have far lower cost due to lower demands for fertilizer and pesticides as compared to cotton.

REFERENCES:

  1. 21 US Code Section 802(16) https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr/21usc/802.htm  
  2. Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 https://www.congress.gov/115/plaws/publ334/PLAW-115publ334.pdf   
  3. 7 USC CHAPTER 38, SUBCHAPTER VII: HEMP PRODUCTION 1639o https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title7/chapter38/subchapter7&edition=prelim
  4. MIL-PRF-MCCUU E 1, July 1, 2016. Purchase Description for Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU) https://www.navysbir.com/n21_A/N21A-T001-REFERENCE-4-MCCUU.pdf
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