Kenneth C. Manning, Arizona State University
Super-absorbing Polymers for Breathable and Self-Sealing Smart Hazmat Suits
Written by Akshay Phadnis
Superabsorbent polymers are a special class of stimuli-sensitive polymers that undergo multifold swelling upon contact with the suitable solvents. Kenneth C. Manning of Arizona State University proposes to use such polymers in developing breathable, self-cleaning hazmat suits for use in chemically hazardous environments. If the polymer is tuned to be swelling when in contact with these chemicals, the swelling property of the polymers can be utilized to reduce the permeability of the chemicals. Since the suits will be “breathable” at all other times, there is no need of separate cooling mechanics to regulate the body temperature, which otherwise is needed in the case of current hazmat suits. The swelling phenomenon of the polymer is characterized experimentally in terms of swelling ratio, swelling time, and repeatability for selected choice of solvents. A finite element-based mathematical model is also implemented to represent the swelling. Using this model, various configurational studies can be done to design the shape and size of the polymer matrix. Also, since these polymers need to be combined with the wearable suits, an optimized method to develop a polymer-fiber matrix can be designed using this model. Use of this selective, self-breathable hazmat suit will bring a new future to the hazmat suits in chemical warfare.