New Powder Coating Neutralizes Poisonous Chemicals; Save Lives
Scientists report they've developed a way to adhere a lightweight coating onto fabrics capable of neutralizing toxins used in chemical weapons delivered through the skin.
The life-saving technique could eventually be used to protect soldiers and emergency responders said the study published in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials.
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Poison was first used on a large scale in World War I, and since then dozens of chemical weapons with lethal potential have been developed.
Scientists have begun exploring the use of zirconium-based "metal-organic framework" (MOF) powders to degrade and destroy the harmful compounds in poison gas.
MOFs are miniscule, porous structures whose large surface areas allow them to absorb vast amounts of gases and other substances. The zirconium within them helps neutralize toxic materials.
But making MOFs can be tedious, requiring high temperatures and long reaction times. In addition, most MOF powders are unstable and incorporating them onto clothing has proven challenging.
Dennis Lee, Gregory N. Parsons and colleagues wanted to see if they could "grow" MOFs onto fabric at room temperature, potentially creating a lightweight shield that could be used on uniforms and protective clothing.
Building on previous work, the researchers exposed polypropylene, a nonwoven fabric commonly used in reusable shopping bags and some clothing, to a mixture consisting of a zirconium-based MOF, a solvent and two binding agents.
To ensure the coating spread evenly across the cloth, they treated the fabrics with thin layers of aluminum, titanium or zinc oxide.
They tested this combination with dimethyl 4-nitrophenyl phosphate (DMNP), a relatively harmless molecule that has similar reactivity as sarin, soman and other nerve agents.
They found that the MOF-treated cloths deactivated the DMNP in less than five minutes, suggesting this process is a viable means to create improved protective clothing.