DLA R&D developing rapid disinfection systems for personal protective equipment 

By Sara Moore DLA Information Operations

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Defense Logistics Agency Research and Development awarded a contract for disinfection systems that quickly sterilize personal protective equipment used by medical professionals who are in contact with COVID-19 patients.

The contract, valued at nearly $1 million with a period of performance from April 23, 2020, to April 22, 2021, leverages two R&D programs, Small Business Innovation Research and the Subsistence Network, to build 100 disinfection systems that use pulsed plasma treatment to disinfect personal protective equipment in five minutes. After 15 minutes of air drying, equipment like face masks, paper and cloth gowns, plastic face shields and goggles can be reused. The systems require no setup and minimal training.

The company, AAPlasma, and its partner, NextFab Studios, will initially assemble three systems and send them to researchers at Drexel University for testing. After testing, the companies will make 100 systems for use in hospitals, with at least 30 produced in 45 days. The hospitals will receive the systems for free under SBIR funding. The companies will evaluate feedback and demand from healthcare facilities after the initial delivery and develop plans to increase production to 1,000 – 10,000 units a month.

Both companies will build the systems with advanced manufacturing techniques including 3D printing, laser cutting, water-jet metal cutting and computational fluid-dynamics modeling. AAPlasma also designed a custom-printed circuit board to run the systems’ electronics.

The contract is a DLA SBIR Phase II award, meaning it uses a small business’ existing technology to meet a DLA requirement. The SBIR Program encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federal R&D that has potential for commercialization. SBIR coordinates with other DLA R&D programs like the Subsistence Network to award research contracts to small innovative businesses with unique solutions that could benefit DLA’s mission.

AAPlasma has an ongoing SBIR project that uses cold plasma fog to extend the shelf life of fruit and vegetables. The technology has been shown to kill pathogens and is now being used to disinfect personal protective equipment. The SBIR funding will enable AAPlasma to expand its manufacturing capability after the first 100 are produced and quickly sell additional disinfection systems to doctors’ offices, nursing homes and hospitals.

This is DLA’s latest effort to support the COVID-19 response through R&D.

“DLA R&D – through SBIR, technology integrators and R&D programs – has the capability to help fund research efforts that are critical to combating COVID-19,” said David Koch, director of DLA R&D. “We are actively seeking opportunities to apply R&D funding for quick wins where the technology is ready for immediate COVID response applications.”