A multifunctional polymer that captures and degrades chemical threats in the environment.
- Forms a gel that entraps toxic materials within seconds of contact.
- Visible color change of gel confirms neutralization of toxic substance.
- Modifiable structure allows for functional use against chemical entity of choice.
Toxic chemicals and materials are manufactured, stored, transported, and used in large quantities throughout the United States. In industrial environments, many people may be in close proximity to potentially dangerous chemicals in solid, gas, or liquid form. Toxic industrial chemicals can be physical hazards (combustible, explosive, flammable or reactive) or chemical hazards (carcinogens, corrosives and agents that affect the lungs or blood) which can enter the body via the skin, inhalation or digestion. Many toxic chemicals can persist hours or days and may pose serious threats if a person comes into contact with them. Resources are needed to protect individuals from the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Emory University researchers have invented a class of polymer materials that trap harmful compounds in ambient settings. The polymer, which forms a gel upon contact with toxic chemicals, is able to degrade harmful chemical substances by hydrolysis or air-based oxidative decontamination. A visible color change of the gel confirms neutralization of harmful agents. This technology has several advantages over currently available materials. The polymer, which contains a catalytically active class of polyoxometales (POM), is versatile in structure allowing it to be modified for use against chemical targets of your choosing. In addition, immediate feedback by its gelling and color change facilitates quick assessments in the field. To date, the polymer has been successfully tested against propane thiol, a common odorant, and DECP, a G-series chemical warfare agent analogue. This polymer may be used in the production of clothing, gas masks, upholstery and filters for buildings where exposure to toxic environmental chemicals or toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) is possible.
Proof of principle experiments have been conducted.