A Cornell undergraduate student used novel university-developed fabric, made of metal organic framework molecules (MOFs) and cellulose fibers, to design a face mask and a hoodie that can provide protection against poisonous gases. The MOFs are able to trap gas molecules of predefined size, determined in advance during fabric manufacturing, allowing for fabrics targeted at specific applications.
MOFs, which are clustered crystalline compounds, can be manipulated at the nanolevel to have cages that are the exact same size as the gas they are trying to capture, said Jennifer Keane ’11, a fiber science and apparel design (FSAD) major in the College of Human Ecology.
Keane worked with Hinestroza and fiber science postdoctoral associate Marcia Da Silva Pinto to create the gas-absorbing hood and mask. Some of the basic science behind this project was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
"The initial goal of attaching the MOFs to fibers was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. We wanted to harness the power of these molecules to absorb gases and incorporate these MOFs into fibers, which allows us to make very efficient filtration systems," Hinestroza said.
Da Silva Pinto first created MOF fabrics in Hinestroza’s lab, working in collaboration with chemists from Professor Omar Yaghi’s group at the University of California-Los Angeles; Yaghi is one of the pioneers and leaders of MOF chemistry, said Hinestroza.
At first the process did not work smoothly. "These crystalline molecules are like a powder that cannot easily become part of cloth," Da Silva Pinto noted. After months of trying to attach the particles to the fiber, the researchers realized that, "The key was to bring the fiber to the particle … It was a real paradigm shift," she said.
"Now we can make large surfaces of fabric coated with MOFs, and we are looking at scaling up this technology to nanofibers," said Hinestroza. "This type of work would only be possible at a place like Cornell where you have this unique merging of disciplines, where a fashion designer can interact easily with a chemist or a materials scientist."
Press release: Senior develops clothes that can trap poisonous gas…
(hat tip: Gizmodo)