A NEW PHYSICS-BASED COMPUTER MODEL CAN EVALUATE THE PERFORMANCE of a protective suit even before the suit is manufactured. The Individual Protection System Performance Model (IP SPM) software was developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department (DTRA CB), in collaboration with the Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center. The IP SPM software allows researchers to digitally evaluate the efficacy of a proposed protective suit in its conceptual phase — when it is just a small swatch of material.
Currently, a new protective suit must first be manufactured as a garment before any testing can begin. Researchers then challenge a manikin or robot wearing a proposed suit with chemical and biological warfare agents. Multiple suits, manikins, and robots are needed to conduct these assessments, which are lengthy and costly. Even more labor, money, and material are required to evaluate a suit’s barrier quality for the many ways in which warfighters can be exposed to chemical and biological agents.
The IP SPM software improves upon current evaluation methods and is undergoing independent verification, validation, and accreditation for use by operational testing agencies. The software measures the physical characteristics of a swatch of material and then simulates how well the material would safeguard a warfighter’s skin from contacting hazardous agents in various atmospheric conditions. The software rapidly produces data on many factors associated with the performance of the material-as-protective-suit, including:
- How the material performs when challenged with varying concentrations of chemical and biological agents
- How the material performs as a barrier when it is wet
- How the material performs when exposed to varying airflow patterns and other environmental conditions
- How well the material keeps away hazards depending on the warfighter’s body position and activity
- How much body heat the material entraps (i.e., thermal burden for the warfighter)
- How well the material performs when manufactured into different suits
- How much toxicity the warfighter would sustain if agents were to seep through the material (through seams, zippers, etc.)
With only a swatch of material, the IP SPM software can illustrate a digitally simulated protective suit — and undergarments — upon a digital warfighter and analyze the suit’s protective performance under various conditions. Using the software, researchers can simulate and evaluate several suit designs to determine the ensemble configuration best capable of safeguarding warfighters. The software will be used by the Uniform Integrated Protection Ensemble Family of Systems.
The IP SPM software not only saves money and labor associated with testing manufactured garments but also allows a swatch of material to undergo multiple and repeated tests for a thorough evaluation of the material’s quality as a toxicological barrier. The collaborative effort of DTRA CB and CCDC Chemical Biological Center will continue to be instrumental in developing and evaluating new, innovative protective suits and other equipment that protect warfighters.