AFRL Scientist Leads Polymer Effort Based on DNA Derived From Biowaste Materials

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- AFRL is making significant contributions to bioengineering through the investigation of a new class of polymer, or "biopolymer," based on DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) derived from biowaste materials. Dr. James G. Grote, of AFRL's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, assembled and led a team to investigate this new biopolymer and its potential applications. The team demonstrated the new material's unique optical and electromagnetic properties, including the tunable conductivity and ultralow optical and microwave loss that make it optimal for high-speed applications.

Electro-optic and electronic devices fabricated from the new biopolymer demonstrate enhanced performance compared to state-of-the-art devices fabricated from current, organic-based materials. This new class of polymer has the potential to compete with--or even replace--many fossil-fuel-based plastics for applications ranging from eyeglasses and food containers to higher-technology applications such as light-emitting diodes and transistors. Continuing research and development efforts could have profound impact on the Air Force and Department of Defense, as well as commercial industry.

The research led by Dr. Grote demonstrates that while biotechnology is applicable to genomic sequencing and clinical diagnosis and treatment, it can also have a major impact on applications outside the biotech arena--photonics and electronics, for example. This potential influence opens up a whole new field for bioengineering.