New Clothing to neutralize toxic substances
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New Clothing to neutralize toxic substances
28
Jul '16
Courtesy: Penn state
Courtesy: Penn state
Imagine a day when protective suits made of fabric coated in self-healing thin films may prevent farmers from exposure to dangerous pesticides, soldiers from chemical or biological attacks in the field and factory workers from accidental releases of toxic materials!

A team of researchers in America's Pennsylvania State University is working on making such marvelous clothing a reality by putting to use what it calls “coating technology.”

"We were looking for a way to make fabrics self-healing using conventional textiles. So we came up with this coating technology," said Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics.

The procedure is simple. The material to be coated is dipped in a series of liquids to create layers of material to form a self-healing, polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer coating, he said.

This coating is deposited "under ambient conditions in safe solvents, such as water, at low cost using simple equipment amenable to scale-up," the researchers reported online in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Polyelectrolyte coatings are made up of positively and negatively charged polymers, in this case polymers like those in squid ring teeth proteins.

These coatings are self-healing in the presence of water, so laundering would repair micro and macro defects in the coating, making the garments rewearable and reusable, said Demirel.
"For the first time we are making self-healing textiles.”

"We currently dip the whole garment to create the advanced material. But we could do the threads first, before manufacturing if we wanted to," said Demirel.

During the layering, enzymes can be incorporated into the coating. The researchers used urease -- the enzyme that breaks urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide -- but in commercial use, the coating would be tailored with enzymes matched to the chemical being targeted.

"If you need to use enzymes for biological or chemical effects, you can have an encapsulated enzyme with self-healing properties degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin," he explained.

Many toxic substances can be absorbed through the skin. Organophosphates, for example, which are used as herbicides and insecticides are absorbed through the skin and can be lethal. Some of these chemicals have also been used as nerve agents.

A garment coated with a self-healing film containing an organophosphate hydrolase, an enzyme that breaks down the toxic material, could limit exposure.

"The coatings are thin, less than a micron, so they wouldn't be noticed in everyday wear," said Demirel. "Even thin, they increase the overall strength of the material."

For manufacturing environments where hazardous chemicals are necessary, clothing coated with the proper enzyme combination could protect against accidental chemical releases. Future use of these coatings in medical meshes could also help patients minimize infections for quick recovery.

The Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research have supported this work, a news article on the University's website said. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

 
 
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