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Fabric repels chemical, biological agents

Fabric repels chemical, biological agents
The highly breathable membranes have pores made of a few nanometer-wide vertically aligned carbon nanotubes that are surface modified with a chemical warfare agent-responsive functional layer. Credit: LLNL

LIVERMORE, Calif., Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A new fabric for military uniforms made with carbon nanotubes can repel chemical and biological agents, researchers in California say.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say the material has been designed to undergo a rapid transition from a breathable state to a protective state.

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High breathability is a critical requirement for protective military apparel to prevent heat-stress and exhaustion when military personnel are operating in contaminated environments, they said.

"The uniform will be like a smart second skin that responds to the environment," Francesco Fornasiero, LLNL's principal project investigator said. "Without the need of an external control system, the fabric will be able to switch reversibly from a highly breathable state to a protective one in response to the presence of the environmental threat."

The uniform fabric will have pores made of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes modified with a chemical warfare agent-responsive layer, a Livermore release said.

Response to a threat would be triggered by direct chemical warfare agent attack to the membrane surface, causing the fabric to switch to a protective state by closing the carbon nanotube pore entrance or by shedding the contaminated surface layer.

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The new uniforms could be available in less than 10 years, the researchers said.

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