Chemists working with the US Army are developing new uniforms that can quickly break down toxic substances, protecting troops from bioweapons, according to Wired.
Omar Farha's lab at Northwestern University is testing a fabric that can neutralize nerve agents.
The new fabric is part of a collaborative effort between the college and the Army, which might take upwards of a decade to test and then commissioned as the next-generation battle uniform.
The fabric can destroy nerve agents VX, soman, and sarin. These dangerous chemicals can be made in a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory (BSL-4), like the one found in Wuhan, China.
The Wired noted, the Army already has uniforms to protect troops from nerve agents, but there are no uniforms that can also destroy the toxins.
Jared DeCoste, a researcher with the Army who isn't involved in the project, said the military has been searching for uniforms that can shield troops from bioweapons and, at the same time, destroy the chemicals.
According to Farha, the important ingredient in the new fabric is a crumpled crystalline molecule called MOF-808:
"This molecule essentially harvests water from ambient air. Water vapor likes to condense onto MOF-808 molecules because of their shape and chemical properties. When MOF-808 makes contact with a nerve agent, the water attached to the molecule breaks down the toxin, while zirconium atoms that recur throughout MOF-808's crystal serve as the catalyst, accelerating the nerve agent's breakdown. As long as the fabric is worn in a place where the humidity level is at least 30 percent, it can collect enough water to break down nerve agents in minutes."
Dr. Francis Boyle, the man who drafted the Biological Weapons Act, recently said in an explosive interview that the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan likely came from a BSL-4 in the city.
He believes the virus is potentially lethal and an offensive biological warfare weapon or dual-use biowarfare weapons agent genetically modified with a gain of function properties.
The threats of biological warfare in the 2020s is undoubtedly a concerning matter for the Army, perhaps that's why next-generational suits to repel and neutralize toxins will be standard issue by the end of the decade.