Researchers develop polymer nanofibers for chemical and biological decontamination

Mar 27, 2013
Magnification of Electrospun Nanofibers: (Top) Nylon fibers electrospun from solution containing 1 weight percent (wt%) of a biocidal quaternary ammonium salt additive. (Bottom) Polycarbonate fibers electrospun from solution. Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Chemical and biological threats pose a significant concern not only to the modern warfighter but an ever-increasing number of individuals and groups. This threat is compounded by the persistence of these agents and the possibilities of causing increased personnel exposure by the relocation of contaminated materials.

To combat this, NRL scientists are developing unique systems aimed at the spontaneous decontamination of a variety of materials via the incorporation of functional additives such as quaternary ammonium salt (QAS) biocides, polyoxometalates (POMs), and phthalocyanines capable of neutralizing chemical and biological agents.

"Some of our previous work has utilized the incorporation of small amounts of these decontaminating agents into paints and coatings," said James Wynne, Ph.D., section head, Applied Concepts in Materials Section of the Chemistry Division." Due to the promising decontamination performance the coatings experienced against a variety of pathogens and chemical agents, we are now extending the additive-derived decontamination capacity to include materials that cannot be painted or coated such as polymer nano- and that can be utilized for a variety of applications such as garments."

NRL chemists have begun utilizing electrospinning – a technique using an to draw very fine fibers from a liquid—to fabricate nearly monodisperse fibers ranging in diameter from 45 to three micrometers. A variety of polymers are co-electrospun with varying concentrations and structures of QAS POMs and other functional compounds.

Biological decontamination of QAS loaded Nylon 6,6 polymide fibers showed a 99.9999 percent reduction of viable S. aureus with increasing biocidal activity correlating well with increased biocide loading and surface biocide content. Separate systems of nylon fibers containing five percent of a nickel POM compound have shown over 50 percent decontamination of 2-chloroethyl phenyl sulfide (CEPS), a mustard simulant, with increased decontamination at even higher POM loadings.

Phthalocyanines, the newest compounds that have been synthesized at NRL, exhibit even greater decontamination capacity than that of POM compounds at only a fraction of the concentration. Examining the effect of nanofiber size on decontamination capacity has shown strong correlations between the surface area of the fibers and activity, demonstrating specific compositions experience well over 99.9 percent greater capacity when electrospun than the same materials cured as traditional coatings.

The wide variety of both commercially available and specially-synthesized polymers that have been examined by this group may also give rise to additional applications such as air and water filters that self-decontaminate against deadly pathogens.

Explore further: Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

Related Stories

Northwest hospitals unprepared for chemical emergencies

Dec 20, 2007

Many hospitals in the northwest of England are ill-prepared to deal with a major chemical incident. According to a survey published in the online open access journal BMC Emergency Medicine. Two out of 18 hospitals in the ...

Next Generation Counterterrorism and Military Wipe Developed

Dec 08, 2008

( -- A newly-developed decontamination wipe designed by researchers at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech University has proven itself the best for cleaning up chemical warfare ...

Recommended for you

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

Apr 17, 2014

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

Wiring up carbon-based electronics

Apr 17, 2014

Carbon-based nanostructures such as nanotubes, graphene sheets, and nanoribbons are unique building blocks showing versatile nanomechanical and nanoelectronic properties. These materials which are ordered ...

Making 'bucky-balls' in spin-out's sights

Apr 16, 2014

( —A new Oxford spin-out firm is targeting the difficult challenge of manufacturing fullerenes, known as 'bucky-balls' because of their spherical shape, a type of carbon nanomaterial which, like ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 28, 2013
copper is a great biocide

More news stories

'Exotic' material is like a switch when super thin

( —Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides, a class of materials that seems to have it all: superconductivity, magnetoresistance ...

Innovative strategy to facilitate organ repair

A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine. A team led by Ludwik Leibler from the Laboratoire Matière Molle et Chimie (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech) and Didier Letourneur ...

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...