reportFocus Report 2010: Protective Materials for Emergency Responders
9.2 Executive Summary
This report is focused on protective materials for emergency responders assessing both the technological developments and market applications in this sector. The technological and economic drivers and barriers are also identified and discussed.
The EU market for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which includes filtration apparatus in addition to protective textiles, is estimated at €9.5-10 billions. Protective textiles have been identified as one of six lead markets for Europe with technological and market developments offering the opportunity to renew a traditional industry. The sector is therefore enjoying considerable political support.
The protective materials market is driven by developing standards to improve the effectiveness of PPE in response to emerging security threats and challenges. One example is the increased threat of terrorism, which presents a need to protect emergency personnel responding to such events.
The technological assessment of nano-enabled technologies in the protective materials sector has been divided into four sub-sectors: detoxification and decontamination; protection from impact; fire resistance/retardency; and integration of ICT devices.
Technological developments are driven by functionality requirements such as lightweight protective clothing, fire resistance, non-toxicity, and information storage capabilities of integrated ICT devices. In all sub-sectors nano-enabled materials can potentially offer superior qualities over existing technologies. Examples include:
• Prototype protective vests made using carbon nanotube yarns and inorganic fullerenes with superior ballistic protection yet at a fraction of the thickness, and therefore weight, of current materials;
• Quantum Tunnelling Composites offering “smart” functionalities such as a flexible control interface allowing the user to illuminate sections of clothing for high visibility purposes;
• Magnesium oxide nanoparticles loaded into nanofibres providing effective detoxification and decontamination coupled with ability to be incorporated into cloths;
• Use of nanoparticles in shear thickening and electro-rheological fluids providing advanced ‘liquid’ armours changing their rigidity when required.
Despite considerable progress in utilising nanomaterials and nanotechnologies for security applications, the majority of experts involved in preparation of this report concurred that significant effort is still required for these results to become technically and commercially viable. One of the way to speed up the process seen by the experts is to join where possible this effort with the development of conventional materials and technologies.
Regulation and standardisation, and dual use applications are the main economic drivers in this sector; the European Commission Directive on PPE 89/686/EEC sets out a number of standards, thus creating a market for PPE to meet these requirements. Barriers to economic development include: the importance of public procurement, where in some markets the public sector is the sole purchaser; protection of intellectual property; and the perception of the sector as a declining, low tech industry.
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