U.S. researchers have developed a fabric containing carbon nanotubes that -- if used in clothing -- could protect its wearer against deadly nerve agent.
Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology engineered the nanotubes -- described as "special molecules that resemble cylinders formed of chicken wire" -- to hold a copper-based catalyst. The catalyst breaks down a key chemical bond in nerve agents, such as sarin, and using nanotubes enhances that process, the institute wrote in a May 6 press release.
Sarin -- which was used used in a 1995 Tokyo subway attack -- belongs to a group of agents called organophosphates. Those substances can be harmful if inhaled and can also work through the skin.
NIST officials said the new research could help lead to new apparel for military personnel involved in cleanup operations. One remaining question to be answered is whether the catalyst should be added to the nanotube structure before or after it is woven into clothing, the institute said.