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[] Die Karte _auf_ dem Ärmel des Kampfanzuges,

Lost? Map's On, Not Up, Sleeve  

By Louise Knapp 

02:00 AM Oct. 18, 2002 PDT

By donning fatigues made out of special fabric and a pair of nighttime
goggles, soldiers could discreetly view detailed field maps as infrared
images on the
surface of their uniforms.

The military suit is one of the real-world applications of a technology
project at the University of Arizona, where a team of scientists is
designing electronic
pictures that can be printed onto flexible, organic nanofilm. The
process enlists a regular inkjet printer and a charged battery.

The nanofilm is made out of layers of conduction polymer containing
light-emitting polymers (LEPs) that glow green when excited by a charge.

"You start with a layer of the conduction polymer," said Ghassan
Jabbour, associate research professor of optical sciences at the
university and member of the design team. "You need an electrode layer
to connect to the positive side of the battery. You put this layer into
the inkjet."

Instead of plain ink, however, Jabbour uses an organic solution. The
chemicals in his ink react with the conduction polymer to print the
desired design onto the

"We're able to print the patterns by modifying the conductivity of
sections of the conduction polymer," Jabbour said. "Where there is no
pattern printed it won't work as an emitter of light -- the polymer
cannot receive the current so cannot emit light."

"Then you start injecting electrons," Jabbour said. "These are
transported through the polymeric material and excite the printed parts
of the material to show the design."

"We can design the molecules to emit at a certain wavelength using
infrared dyes and polymers so to view it the soldier would need his
night vision goggles,"
Jabbour said.

Although the team has working prototypes of the material, they are not
quite ready to go into production.

"The processing part is not predictable yet," said Dunbar Birnie,
another team member who is a professor of electrical and computer
engineering. "It's not like I can write out a recipe and then get the
students to go off and make it. There are a lot of variables to look at
-- surface tension, the coefficient of the solvents and polymers,
viscosity and solubility -- it's a multifaceted problem."

"We think you will eventually be able to leave (the fabric) out in the
rain, but it needs to have better encapsulation. We need better
material," Jabbour said.

If the team irons out these wrinkles, the material could have a host of
interesting applications.

Jabbour said such an innovation is a future development, however.

Lt. Col. Cynthia Colin of the U.S. Army's public affairs office declined
to comment on the project.

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