Lifesaving smart fabric can detect and neutralize deadly nerve gas

smart fabric
Feng Yu/123RF

As part of the fight against deadly chemical weapon attacks, researchers at the City College of New York have developed a new smart fabric that is capable of not only rapidly detecting nerve gas, but also of neutralizing it.

“We have modified cotton fabrics by attaching to them a very active catalytic phase,” researcher Teresa Bandosz, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering, told Digital Trends. “The prepared fabrics are able not only to protect well against the surrogate of a nerve agent by adsorbing and decomposing it to benign products but also — by a visible color change — to inform the user about the duration of the protection they provide.”

The textile is made from cotton that has been infused with carbon nitride. According to Bandosz, the material could be used to fabricate a range of items, from suits to gloves to blankets. While she notes that it would probably be most likely to find a home in military clothing, it could also be used to create clothing aimed at the civilian population — as a possible defense against terrorist activity or similar.

This is not the first time that we covered material that is able to change color when it’s exposed to external materials. Last year, we wrote about three designer shirts which gradually change color in response to either carbon monoxide, pollution, or radioactivity. In the case of Bandosz’s material, the color change is also visible and gradual — but, unlike those other smart clothes, it can help dispel the effects of the thing it is designed to sense, rather than just alerting you to it. Further trials need to be done, but the results could be life-saving.

“The research leading to this development was supported by U.S. Army Research Office,” Bandosz said. “Unfortunately, the grant expired in March so right now to continue the research our first priority is to look, and eventually to secure financial support to go further with our efforts. Of course, we have ideas how to develop even better protection [materials]. It involves development of a new kind of an active phase, usage of optimal fabrics as a support, multi-functionality, and durability. All of these contribute to the ‘smartness’ of these materials.”

A journal describing this work was recently published in the journal Nanoscale Horizons.