For wearer comfort and safety, high breathability is a critical requirement for protective clothing to prevent heat stress when military personnel are engaged in missions in contaminated environments. To provide high breathability, the new composite material will take advantage of the unique transport properties of carbon nanotube pores, which offer gas transport rates two orders of magnitude faster than any other pore of similar size.
The polymer scientists point out that biological agents such as bacteria and viruses are close to 10 nanometers in size. Because the membrane pores on the uniform are only a few nanometers wide, these membranes will block such agents.
However, chemical agents such as mustard gas and nerve gas can be much smaller and require the membrane pores to be able to react to block that threat. To create a multifunctional membrane, the research team plans to modify the surface of the original prototype carbon nanotube membranes with chemical threat responsive functional groups. These functional groups sense and block the threat like gatekeepers on entrance.
The scientists also plan to develop a second, "shedding" response scheme in which the fabric exfoliates upon recation with a chemical agent. In this way, the fabric will be able to block chemical agents such as sulfur mustard (blister agent), GD and VX nerve agents, toxins such as staphylococcal enterotoxin and biological spores such as anthrax.
Carter at UMass Amherst says, "Mimicking the way real skin responds to threats by exfoliation and shedding of contaminated areas will allow for a dynamic responsive garment, all achieved through controlled chemical reactions in this new advanced fabric."
Tracee Harris, science and technology manager for the Dynamic Multifunctional Material for a Second Skin Program, says, "Development of chemical threat responsive carbon nanotube membranes is a great example of a novel material's p
|Contact: Janet Lathrop|
University of Massachusetts at Amherst