University of Pittsburgh
April 1, 2001


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, April 2 -- The Department of Defense (DoD), through The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and The Army Research Office, has awarded a $5,573,845 grant to the University of Pittsburgh and two partners to develop a thin polymer coating for vehicles to detect and deactivate chemical and biological agents.

The research project will be led by University of Pittsburgh R.K. Mellon Professor of Chemistry John T. Yates, Jr., and will be cooperatively carried out at Pitt, Kansas State University, and Texas A& M University, under the DoD's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI). The grant is one of the largest under this year's MURI program.

"We are seeking novel ways to protect personnel from chemical and biological agent attack," said Yates, who holds a dual appointment in the chemistry and the physics and astronomy departments, and directs the Pittsburgh Surface Science Center. "A combination of biochemistry, solar-driven photochemistry, and surface chemistry will be employed to detect and destroy agent materials."

Yates will be joined by Pitt Professors Alan J. Russell,and chairman of the chemical and petroleum engineering department, and Hrvoje Petek of the physics and astronomy department, along with Professors Kenneth Klabunde of Kansas State University and James Wild of Texas A & M University. The group will probe the details of biochemical and chemical processes using methods ranging from surface spectroscopies to genetic engineering to nanoscience.

The project builds on expertise at Pitt and the other universities in surface chemistry and physics, biochemical engineering, and nanometer-sized materials.

"The research findings are expected to extend far beyond military applications, leading to thin film coatings that can be used on many commercial surfaces for chemical and bacterial decontamination. Such applications are now being developed in Japan, where the activation of materials such as titanium dioxide by light is beginning to be used in decontamination of the air, and of glass, ceramic, and metal surfaces," Yates said.