Washington: Researchers have discovered that some compounds called polyoxoniobates can degrade and decontaminate nerve agents like the deadly sarin gas, and have other characteristics that could make them ideal for protective suits, masks or other clothing.
Some other compounds exist that can decontaminate nerve gases, researchers said, but they are organic, unstable, degraded by sunlight and have other characteristics that make them undesirable for protective clothing - or they are inorganic, but cannot be used on fabrics or surfaces.
By contrast, the polyoxoniobates are inorganic, do not degrade in normal environmental conditions, dissolve easily and it should be able to incorporate them onto surfaces, fabrics and other material.
May Nyman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry in the OSU College of Science, said this is a fundamental new understanding of what these compounds can do.
She said that as stable, inorganic compounds they have an important potential to decontaminate and protect against these deadly nerve gases.
As a chemical group, polyoxoniobates have been known of since the mid-1900s, Nyman said, but a detailed investigation of their complex chemistry has revealed this new potential. Besides protection against nerve gas, she said, their chemistry might allow them to function as a catalyst that could absorb carbon dioxide and find use in carbon sequestration at fossil-fuel power plants - but little has been done yet to explore that potential.
A new method to protect against nerve agents could be significant. These organofluorophosphate compounds can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and in military use are considered weapons of mass destruction. They can be lethal even at very small levels of exposure.
The study has been published in the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry.