The US military may soon have new “breathable” uniforms that combat biological and chemical threats. Using new forms of micro-technology “nanotubes,” the uniforms are comfortable even when protected against new and often unseen biological warfare threats.

 

Smart uniforms could allow air in and out but filter biological weapons

It might take another ten years, but US solders could be sporting “smart uniforms” that defend them from some of the most terrifying weapons of war in history.

Spreading viruses and using chemical weapons to achieve a military end is the new reality of the international battlefield. With a force having been unleashed in the Middle East that appears not to concern itself with the Geneva Convention, protecting military personal from the unthinkable is now being considered.

This is where the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California comes into play.

In October 2014 the federal research facility began research on carbon nanotube “porins” but the technology was primarily being used as a method to deliver drugs into the human system.

“We found that these nanopores are a promising biomimetic platform for developing cell interfaces, studying transport in biological channels, and creating biosensors,” researcher Aleksandr Noy said at the time, but there was a thought the technology could be applied elsewhere. “We are thinking about CNT porins as a first truly versatile synthetic nanopore that can create a range of applications in biology and materials science.”

Fast forward to 2016 and that new application has been found.

Nanopore tubes width smaller than human hair

The nanopore tube, 5,000 times smaller in width than a human hair, is the key ingredient in the new “second skin” uniform that is being touted as more breathable than Gore-Tex.

The tube is so small that air can go in and out but it blocks certain biological agents such as antrax, biological spores and the dengue virus, for instance.

“This is thought to be a really new paradigm of protection, because you can imagine that the soldier will wear a suit that is very breathable and comfortable to start with,” Francesco Fornasiero, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was quoted as saying.

While the material is a breakthrough, certain smaller chemical agents may get through, which would require a potential technology to detect when a threat was present and shut down the “breathable” aspect of the uniform at that time.

“The material will be like a smart second skin that responds to the environment,” Kuang Jen Wu, leader of the biosecurity and biosciences group, said in a statement.