British and Canadian scientists have developed a new sponge to effectively contain and deactivate neurotoxic chemicals like VX and sarin.
The teams were led by Dr Simon Holder from the University of Kent (UK) and Dr Barry Blight from the University of New Brunswick (Canada) respectively.
VX and sarin are just two of the many neurotoxins – also known as nerve agents – used for building biochemical weapons.
They are highly potent and fast acting; a small dose is enough to cause rapid paralysis and death.
Needless to say, these internationally banned liquids are aerosolized purposely to inflict damage on large geographical areas and are considered to be Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).
Now the Kent and UNB teams have developed a new Metal-organic framework (MOF)-containing polymer sponge that they say could help in the bulk decontamination of chemical weapons as those mentioned above.
This sponge can swell and absorb dangerous neurotoxins and make them safer to handle, which also contains the MOF chemical catalyst, created to accelerate the chemical’s breakdown, diminishing the neurotoxins into safer components.
To research this safely, the scientists used substances to simulate the presence of neurotoxins without risking exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Following this, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – the project’s main sponsor – tested the prototype material with the real nerve agent to confirm the effect.
“Less than five kilograms of the MOF-containing polymer sponge can absorb, immobilize, and safely destroy a 55-gallon drum of these toxic chemicals,” asserts Holder.
“It is very exciting to consider the potential this has in combating dangerous chemicals in the future.”
Image and content: University of Kent