All it takes is one slip up of a needle for a health care worker to contract hepatitis or another blood-borne disease. But what if a glove could immediately respond and protect against a stick? That’s the idea behind a spinoff company founded by researchers at the University of Delaware.
Norman Wagner, a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said the key ingredient of puncture-resistant gloves is a “shear thickening fluid,” a fluid containing high-strength nanoparticles, such as those made of ceramic, that actually gets stronger when a force is applied.
“That’s counterintuitive,” he said. “Most of the materials you deal with in your everyday world, the more you push on them, the more you strain them, the weaker they get, and they fail. These materials react in a different way, and they become stiffer and stronger and harder.”
Wagner has spent much of his career studying the materials from a basic research perspective, but last year decided to co-found a company, STF Technologies, to realize the applications.
Richard Dombrowski, the other co-founder, said the first users are likely to be orthopedic surgeons.
“Orthopedic surgery is a little more physically intensive,” he said. “They also face a lot of puncture hazards from sharp pins or tools or bone fragments that can represent the potential for injury.”
After that, the duo said, they would like to market the gloves to others, but for now it’s still early days. The company was recently awarded a $225,000 Phase I grant through the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Technology Transfer Research Program to develop a prototype.