A new version of Fibertect®, a nonwoven decontamination wipe created by researchers at Texas Tech University, has proven more viable at cleaning up a nerve chemical surrogate than the decontamination substance currently used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which is being phased out.
Seshadri Ramkumar, lead investigator on the project and inventor of Fibertect®, says that when compared to the powdered decontaminant called M-291, the all-cotton version of nonwoven wipe paired with an activated carbon center cleaned up not only the chemical surrogate to the nerve gas soman, but also adsorbed its vapors five times better.
The results were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Engineered Fibers & Fabrics, by INDA (Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry). Experiments in the research were conducted by Utkarsh Sata, a co-investigator on the project.
Part of the added benefit of this new Fibertect® is that it contains biodegradable cotton, Ramkumar says. A problem with the powdery form is that it leaves dirty residue. “That is why the U.S. Department of Defense wants to get away from the powdery form,” he says. “Fibertect® is a fabric. It is skin-friendly. When it comes to adsorbing the surrogate nerve agent’s vapors, it just works better, so the powdered decontaminant will be phased out.”
In 2005, Ramkumar and his team at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech studied the absorbent capabilities of cotton to create the Fibertect® wipe that can adsorb and neutralize gases and liquids that might be used in chemical warfare.
Other researchers included Eugene Wilusz of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier RD&E Center, Steve Mlynarek of the University of South Florida and Gopal Coimbatore of Texas Tech. The research was funded in part by DoD, Cotton Inc., the International Cotton Research Center, Texas Department of Agriculture, Cotton Foundation and The CH Foundation.