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5.31.20
Protective Clothing

The US Army Is Developing Fabrics That Neutralize Nerve Agents

February 5th 20__Kristin Houser__Filed Under: Hard Science
Victor Tangermann

Chemical Warfare

Nerve agents are some of the most toxic substances on Earth.

Exposure to even a tiny amount of one of the manmade chemicals can kill a person — which, unfortunately, has made them a major concern for militaries despite treaties banning their use in war.

To that end, the United States Army is now working with chemists to create fabrics that can absorb and neutralize nerve agents — so it can then use those fabrics for its military uniforms.

Watered Down

A newly published Wired story takes a deep dive into the development of the fabrics.

At Northwestern University, chemist Omar Farha leads a team that’s creating a fabric coating that can destroy the nerve agents VX and soman. That coating contains a molecule that pulls water from the air. If the molecule comes in contact with a nerve agent, the water breaks down the toxin.

The coating reportedly works as long as it’s in an environment with at least 30 percent humidity.

Wearable Defense

Now that Farha’s team has created a fabric that can neutralize VX and soman, the next step is figuring out whether it’s suitable for a military uniform.

That will involve testing its breathability, ensuring that the coating won’t flake off the fabric, and exploring ways to scale up production, according to the Wired story.

If the chemists can do all of that, tomorrow’s soldiers might literally wear their defense against nerve agents on their sleeves.

READ MORE: This Cloth Destroys Deadly Nerve Agents in Minutes [Wired]

More on chemical warfare: The Deadly Toxin That Killed Kim Jong Nam Takes A Single Drop to Kill