Researchers at UMass Amherst and other institutions are developing a protective fabric that responds to the environment.

To help protect soldiers in the future, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and other institutions, are developing a new type of uniform made with a nanotube-based fabric that repels chemical and biological agents.

The fabric will be able to automatically switch from a highly breathable state to a protective one in response to environmental threats, like a smart ‘second skin.' It has membranes with pores made of a few-nanometer-wide, vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes modified with a functional surface layer. In response to the presence of a chemical warfare agent, the fabric would close the pore entrance or shed the contaminated surface layer.

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