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US researchers have employed a polymer nanofibre membrane to filter chemical warfare agents in personal protection suits.

The disposal of toxic agents and the weight of personal protection suits necessary to guard against them is a concern for people working within the industry.

Activated carbon as adsorbent is frequently employed to filter out chemical agents, but nerve and blister agents are simply adsorbed onto activated carbon, making disposal of the personal protection suits and masks an issue.

However, the new polymer nanofibre membrane acts as a substrate on to which the nerve agents are physically absorbed, followed shortly thereafter by chemical decomposition.

Furthermore, replacing the charcoal laminate layer in current protective gear with functionalised nanofibre laminates, the weight of the personal protection suits can be reduced by as much as 50-70 per cent.

Polymer nanofibre laminates also permit improved moisture evaporation, making it considerably more comfortable to wear.

Seeram Ramakrishna, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering at National University of Singapore (NUS), said: "These nanofibres could be used as filter linings in face masks not only for military use but also for health care personnel for protection from bacterial and other biological agents of concern.

"These fibers when manufactured in large scale make good HEPA filters for hospitals, clean rooms and other sterile places where bacterial contamination is to be prevented."

track© Adfero Ltd

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