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New fabric for U.S. Army to destroy nerve agents

Industry News | February 10, 2020 | By:

Sgt. Logan Hall, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier with the 200th Military Police Command, inspects the seal of a protective mask during formation during a field training exercise at Fort Meade, Md., Jan. 13, 2019. Photo: Master Sgt. Michel Sauret/Army Reserve.

Nerve agents are some of deadliest substances on the planet. From Sarin gas, which turns the human nervous system against itself, to mustard gas, which burns on contact and disrupts respiratory function, these chemicals, often unseen, are ones the U.S. Army is working to protecting against and destroy. A new fabric, generated by Omar Farha’s lab at Northwestern University, in cooperation with the U.S. Army, is intended to do just that.

In an article in Army Times, Farha said, “With the correct chemistry, we can render toxic gases nontoxic. The action takes place at the nano level.” Farha is associate professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. 

The fabric makes toxic gases ineffective because it pulls “water from the air,” Futurism reported. Essentially, if a nerve agent comes in contact with the fabric coating, the water destroys it.

“MOFs can capture, store and destroy a lot of the nasty material, making them very attractive for defense-related applications,” Farha noted in the release.

The coating for the fabric is the result of 10 years spent working to develop more chemically protective Army uniforms, Wired reported. Currently, the service has fabric that absorbs the effects of nerve agents but does not neutralize them.

Wired also reported that the fabric works as long as it’s in an environment with at least 30 percent humidity, adding that, when tested for breathability, it performed even better when an excess level of perspiration was involved, because of the added moisture. 

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