Researchers have developed a special kind of fabric that could neutralize chemical weapons, potentially saving lives that would otherwise be lost. The fabric was recently detailed in the American Chemical Society’s journal ‘Chemistry of Materials,’ and it would work by protecting people from chemical toxins designed to impact someone through the skin. The fabric utilizes a metal-organic framework to pull off its seemingly magical properties.
Chemical weapons, of course, are weapons that disperse or in some way deploy toxic substances that can kill hundreds or thousands of people quickly. It is very difficult to protect against these weapons, as the chemicals used could potentially cause immediate damage to the skin or be absorbed into it in a matter of seconds. Researchers have long worked on a potential solution to these weapons.
One of the more recent developments in this mission are metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) based on zirconium. These powders are able to both degrade and ultimately destroy the chemical substances; their special structure enables them to absorb the substances, even gas. MOFs have their share of problems, though, particularly that they’re unstable, making use difficult.
Rather than trying to implement these unstable powders into fabric, a team of researchers decided to instead grow MOFs directly onto fabric, in this case the non-woven fabric polypropylene. When tested with a substance similar to nerve agents used in chemical weapons, it was found the fabric neutralized the compound in under five minutes. The fabric could be used for individuals who would be operating in an area potentially hit by chemical agents, including emergency workers and soldiers.