Safe suit traps toxins

Texas Tech University researchers may have discovered a polyurethane nanofibre technique that could lead to the creation of a material that saves lives by trapping toxic chemicals.

TexasTechUniversity researchers may have discovered a polyurethane nanofibre technique that can save lives

Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar, an assistant professor at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, and graduate student Thandavamoorthy Subbiah recently discovered a honeycomb polyurethane nanofabric by using electrospinning. The nanofabric, created by exposing polyurethane to high voltage, not only traps toxic chemicals, but can also be used in a hazardous material suit.

Ramkumar’s findings are featured in the September 5 edition of the Journal of Applied Polymer Science. The project was funded by the US Department of Defense.

‘These fibers are tiny,’ Ramkumar said. ‘They’re about 1,000 times smaller than microfibres. We are able to develop honeycomb-like structures with this method, which makes a mesh within a mesh. This may not only provide increased surfaces area, but also can trap toxic chemicals more efficiently. These fibers are yet to be tested for their protection capabilities.’

Ramkumar and other researchers were able to observe self-assembled honeycomb nanomeshes that have not been reported before in the case of polyurethane nanofibres.

‘This can be a very efficient filter against toxic chemicals, as well as a membrane for protecting people,’ he said. ‘This will provide a significant boon to chemical protective clothing as well as a method to trap chemical warfare agents.’