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Functionalized, carbon nanotube material for the catalytic degradation of organophosphate nerve agents


Recent world events have emphasized the need to develop innovative, functional materials that will safely neutralize chemical warfare (CW) agents in situ to protect military personnel and civilians from dermal exposure. Here, we demonstrate the efficacy of a novel, proof-of-concept design for a Cu-containing catalyst, chemically bonded to a single-wall carbon nanotube (SWCNT) structural support, to effectively degrade an organophosphate simulant. SWCNTs have high tensile strength and are flexible and light-weight, which make them a desirable structural component for unique, fabric-like materials. This study aims to develop a self-decontaminating, carbon nanotube-derived material that can ultimately be incorporated into a wearable fabric or protective material to minimize dermal exposure to organophosphate nerve agents and to prevent accidental exposure during decontamination procedures. Carboxylated SWCNTs were functionalized with a polymer, which contained Cu-chelating bipyridine groups, and their catalytic activity against an organophosphate simulant was measured over time. The catalytically active, functionalized nanomaterial was characterized using X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy. Assuming zeroth-order reaction kinetics, the hydrolysis rate of the organophosphate simulant, as monitored by UV-vis absorption in the presence of the catalytically active nanomaterial, was 63 times faster than the uncatalyzed hydrolysis rate for a sample containing only carboxylated SWCNTs or a control sample containing no added nanotube materials.

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Correspondence to Mark M. Bailey or Angela R. Hight Walker.

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Bailey, M.M., Heddleston, J.M., Davis, J. et al. Functionalized, carbon nanotube material for the catalytic degradation of organophosphate nerve agents. Nano Res. 7, 390–398 (2014).

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  • single-wall carbon nanotube functionalization
  • catalytically-active nanomaterial
  • chemical warfare agent