New, rare nanomaterial fabric effective against COVID-19 and other threats

October 12, 2021
New, rare nanomaterial fabric effective against COVID-19 and other threats

Researchers have developed a type of material that can protect its wearer from various biological and chemical threats, including the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Developed by a team from Northwestern University in Illinois, US, the rare nanomaterial i.e., metal-organic framework (MOF)/fibre composite that can deactivate all kinds of toxic agents and be restored and reused after a simple bleach treatment.

The porous nanomaterial is easily coated on textile fibres and so can be used in face masks and other protective clothing.

“Having a bifunctional material that has the ability to deactivate both chemical and biological toxic agents is crucial since the complexity to integrate multiple materials to do the job is high,” said Professor Omar Farha, Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology.

Professor Farha explained that MOFs are “sophisticated bath sponges,” designed with a lot of holes that can capture gases, vapours, and other agents the way a sponge captures water. His team found that the new MOF/fibre composite exhibited rapid activity against SARS-CoV-2 and both gram-negative bacteria (E. coli) and gram-positive bacteria (S. aureus); while the active chlorine-loaded MOF/fibre composite rapidly degraded sulfur mustard gas and its chemical simulant (2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide, CEES). In addition, the nanopores of the MOF material coated on the textile are wide enough to allow sweat and water to escape.

The composite material is scalable, as it only requires basic textile processing equipment currently used by industry. When incorporated into a facemask, the material should be able to work both ways to protect the mask wearer from circulating virus particles as well as individuals who encounter an infected person wearing the mask.

Read: Mask sensor to detect and track coronavirus in development

The researchers also were able to develop an understanding of the material’s active sites down to atomic level, Farha added. This allows them and others to derive structure-property relationships that can lead to the creation of other MOF-based composites.

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