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Chemical-Stopping Fabrics

June 14, 2017

A fabric that renders nerve gas harmless.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Fabrics that neutralize chemical weapons. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Clothing to protect military personnel from chemical agents can be extremely uncomfortable, especially in hot environments. That’s one reason North Carolina State University biomolecular engineer Gregory Parsons and his team are developing breathable fabrics that have a coating that captures and degrades nerve gas and other toxic chemicals. In the journal Chemistry of Materials, Parsons says they start with zirconium dioxide, or zirconia.

GREGORY PARSONS (North Carolina State University):

It’s been known for some time that zirconia has the unique ability to adsorb harmful chemicals and allow them to decompose.

HIRSHON:

He says grad student Dennis Lee developed the method for afixing the zirconia crystals to fabric fibers.

PARSONS:

They’re bound strongly and they’re exposed on the surface and they retain their chemical efficiency at decomposing the chemical warfare agents that we’ve studied so far.

He says the innovation could also be used to create fabrics that kill germs as well.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon