Naval Research Laboratory developing next-gen protective gear

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is seeking to use reactive and catalytic air purification materials and catalytic decontamination materials to develop more efficient protection against chemical weapons agents, including a better a better kind of gas mask.

Current carbon-based technology, like the kind used in gas masks, absorbs harmful agents and hold onto them until capacity is reached. Scientists at the NRL hope to create a new kind of air purifier that can replace the traditional carbon-based units without capacity limits, according to

"So the kind of sorbents that I'm trying to make are intended to incorporate reactivity that would grab targets that you usually wouldn't catch using carbon," Dr. White, a research chemist from the NRL, said, reports. "They're intended to give you something beyond one-to-one interaction."

The new technology takes harmful elements and processes them into something harmless without having to store anything, allowing it to be used for a much longer time before having to be replaced or reconfigured.

"The first goal is to see the improvement in the technology that is available for gas masks and respiratory protection," Dr. White said, reports. "Then the second thing that we're really excited for is the potential for incorporation of the photo catalytic sorbents into next generation protective garments."

Beyond gas masks, NRL scientists hope to create self-decontaminating protective fabrics and surfaces using purification technology.

"Whether that be a garment or a tent structure or the hood or a car, [when] the target when it comes in contact it is rapidly sequestered, so a person can't come in contact with it anymore," Dr. White said, reports. "That allows times for the catalytic process to occur. So while it might not be destroyed immediately on contact, it's sequestered on contact and broken down into something that's non-toxic."