As far back as World War I, militaries have used large-scale chemical weapons in warfare. A number of treaties have banned these chemical agents since then, but chemical warfare still manages to make headlines today. In 2013, the Syrian military used sarin gas to devastating effect during the country’s civil war.
With troops deployed around the world, the U.S. military seeks to ensure soldiers’ safety against potential chemical attacks. University of Cincinnati Professor of Chemical Engineering Anastasios Angelopoulos, Ph.D., is studying potential defenses for these chemical agents. One solution lies in the very fabric of soldiers’ uniforms.
Angelopoulos was recently awarded a $324,551 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the transport behavior of organic molecules, including those similar to chemical warfare agents in the commercial polymer Nafion.
The research is a collaborative project with University of Florida Professor of Chemical Engineering Sergei Vasenkov and fellow UC professor Jonathan Nickels who is co-principal investigator on the grant. A key goal of the work is to create a protective membrane that may be woven into soldiers’ uniforms.
“Nafion is a very unique type of polymer,” says Angelopoulos. “It has the very important property of being able to transport ions very rapidly, but at the same time, it hinders the transport of gases, like oxygen. Organic liquids, like chemical warfare agents, have much more complex transport behavior in Nafion that cannot now be predicted.”