The material protects against biological and chemical threats


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

A research team from Northwestern University has 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. Material effective against both threat classes is rare.

The material is also reusable. It can be restored to its original condition 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 because the complexity of integrating multiple materials to do the job is high,” said Omar Farha of Northwestern, a steel structures expert. -organic, or MOF, which is the basis of the technology.

Farha, professor of chemistry at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is a co-author of the study. He is a fellow of the Northwestern International Institute for Nanotechnology.

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

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

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

The researchers found that the MOF / fiber composite exhibited rapid activity against SARS-CoV-2 and gram-negative (E. coli) and gram-positive (S. aureus) bacteria. In addition, the MOF / fiber composite loaded with active chlorine 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 large enough to allow sweat and water to escape.

Composite material is scalable, Farha added, because it only requires basic textile processing equipment currently used by industry. When incorporated into a face mask, the material should be able to work both ways: protecting the wearer of the mask from nearby viruses as well as protecting people who come into contact with an infected person wearing the mask.

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

The title of the article is “Regenerable Active Chlorine Immobilized in Zirconium-Based MOF Textile Composite to Eliminate Biological and Chemical Threats”. Yuk Ha Cheung from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Kaikai Ma from Northwestern University are the original authors of the article. Ma is also a co-author.

Hydrogel composite developed to help protective equipment rapidly degrade nerve agents

More information:
Yuk Ha Cheung et al, Regenerable active chlorine immobilized in MOF zirconium-based textile composite to eliminate biological and chemical threats, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2021). DOI: 10.1021 / jacs.1c08576

Provided by Northwestern University

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