Material protects against biological and chemical threats

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a versatile composite fabric that can deactivate both biological threats, such as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and chemical threats, such as those used in chemical warfare.

Photo
Programmable crystalline sponge-textile composite for elimination of biological and chemical threats
Source: Northwestern University

The material also is reusable. It can be restored to its original state after the fabric has been exposed to threats by a simple bleach treatment. The promising fabric could be used in face masks and other protective clothing.

“Having a bifunctional material that has the ability to deactivate both chemical and biological toxic agents is crucial since the complexity to integrate multiple materials to do the job is high,” said Northwestern’s Omar Farha, an expert in metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, which is the basis for the technology.

Farha, a professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is a co-corresponding author of the study. He is a member of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology.

The MOF/fiber composite builds on an earlier study in which Farha’s team created a nanomaterial that deactivates toxic nerve agents. With some small manipulations, the researchers were able to also incorporate antiviral and antibacterial agents into the material.

MOFs are “sophisticated bath sponges,” Farha said. The nano-sized materials are designed with a lot of holes that can capture gases, vapors and other agents the way a sponge captures water. In the new composite fabric, the cavities of the MOFs have catalysts that can deactivate toxic chemicals, viruses and bacteria. The porous nanomaterial can be easily coated on textile fibers.

The researchers found that the MOF/fiber composite exhibited rapid activity against SARS-CoV-2 and both gram-negative bacteria (E. coli) and gram-positive bacteria (S. aureus). Also, the active chlorine-loaded MOF/fiber composite rapidly degraded sulfur mustard gas and its chemical simulant (2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide, CEES). The nanopores of the MOF material coated on the textile are wide enough to allow sweat and water to escape.

The composite material is scalable, Farha added, as it only requires basic textile processing equipment currently used by industry. When incorporated into a facemask, the material should be able to work both ways: protecting the mask wearer from virus in his or her vicinity as well as protecting individuals who come into contact with an infected person wearing the mask.

The researchers also were able to develop an understanding of the material’s active sites down to atomic level. This allows them and others to derive structure-property relationships that can lead to the creation of other MOF-based composites.

The study was published in Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

Magic fibers: ‘smart fabrics’ can change color

Magic fibers: ‘smart fabrics’ can change color

Researchers are testing new ways to spin liquid crystals into fibers that could be used in camouflage clothing or to create cleaning wipes that can detect the presence of bacteria.

Nanomaterial 'aerographene' creates powerful pumps

Nanomaterial 'aerographene' creates powerful pumps

Researchers have developed a method for the generation of controllable electrical explosions.

Biomaterials for virus-fighting surfaces

Biomaterials for virus-fighting surfaces

Scientists are working toward advances that, using nanotechnology, could lead to a hospital bed or doorknob that naturally destroys viruses.

‘Smart’ surfaces promise safer implants

‘Smart’ surfaces promise safer implants

Researchers design “smart” surfaces, creating promise for safer implants and more accurate diagnostic tests.

Nanotechnology sensor for SARS-CoV-2

Nanotechnology sensor for SARS-CoV-2

A new test method that detects SARS-CoV-2 in saliva has the same sensitivity as a qPCR test.

Face mask detects Covid-19 infection

Face mask detects Covid-19 infection

Engineers have designed a novel face mask that can diagnose the wearer with Covid-19 within about 90 minutes.

Graphene used to detect COVID-19 quickly

Graphene used to detect COVID-19 quickly

Researchers have used graphene to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in laboratory experiments. It could be a breakthrough in coronavirus detection, with potential applications in the fight against COVID-19 and its variants.

Nanofiber filter for coronavirus aerosol capture

Nanofiber filter for coronavirus aerosol capture

A filter made from polymer nanothreads blew three kinds of commercial masks out of the water by capturing 99.9% of coronavirus aerosols in an experiment.

8 autonomous robots for disinfecting surfaces

8 autonomous robots for disinfecting surfaces

In this third part of our ongoing series, we present eight additional systems that are currently being deployed to decontaminate and sanitize surfaces.

Popular articles

Subscribe to Newsletter