IISER Bhopal Researchers develop material to break down chemical warfare agents like Mustard Gas

IISER Bhopal researchers have developed an effective photocatalyst, a substance that absorbs a wide range of solar energy and light to quicken chemical processes in laboratories and industries.

This new, sustainable development contributes to harnessing a renewable energy source for detoxifying harmful substances such as chemical warfare agents, say sources from IISER Bhopal

IISER BhopalChemical warfare agents include mustard gas simulants like ‘2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide’ (CEES) and nerve agents, which are highly poisonous chemicals that affect a person’s nervous system, say sources from IISER Bhopal.

Advancement

This research represents a significant advancement in the field of ‘Photocatalysis’, a process where a substance (a photocatalyst) is used to change the rate of a chemical reaction when exposed to light.

While many different types of photocatalysts are used in various industries for effective light harvesting, they all suffer from a drawback in that they only absorb UV or high-energy parts of light, say sources from IISER Bhopal.

Material

But this novel photocatalyst developed by IISER Bhopal researchers solves that problem. This newly-developed material called ‘UC-POP-Au’ displays remarkable strength and catalytic efficiency as it absorbs the entire spectrum of light, making it a more potent catalyst during chemical processes.

Findings

The findings of this research by IISER Bhopal researchers have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Angewandte Chemie (D.O.I: https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.202312910) in a paper co-authored by Prof. Abhijit Patra, Department of Chemistry, IISER Bhopal, and his research scholars, Ms. Shilpi Jaiswal, Dr. Arkaprabha Giri, Dr. Dependranath Mandal, and Ms. Madhurima Sarkar.

IISER BhopalScenarios

Prof. Abhijit Patra, Department of Chemistry, IISER Bhopal explained the scenarios in which the photocatalyst can be deployed in the real world.

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He said the current investigation unveils a novel direction in the development of advanced light-harvesting porous organic polymer nanocomposite materials, showing potential applications in designing smart protective coatings against chemical warfare agents under natural sunlight conditions.

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Composite Material

This composite material has integrated near-infrared absorbing upconversion nanoparticles and visible light absorbing gold nanoparticles with a UV rays absorbing conjugated porous organic polymer (POP), say IISER Bhopal researchers.

The use of upconversion and gold nanoparticles enhances the chemical reaction so drastically, say sources from IISER Bhopal.

Technical aspects

Speaking on the technical aspects of this research, Prof. Abhijit Patra said they have developed an innovative design approach that involves the integration of plasmonic and upconversion nanoparticles with a conjugated porous organic polymer, which opens up new vistas towards artificial light harvesting.

Applicability

To test the applicability of this photocatalyst, the research team coated a small piece of cotton cloth with the UC-POP-Au under direct sunlight to detoxify mustard gas simulant, a popular chemical warfare agent, say sources from IISER Bhopal.

Displaying excellent performance compared to a regular polymer-based photocatalyst, the UC-POP-Au significantly expedited photocatalysis, say sources from IISER Bhopal.

Applicability

To test the applicability of this photocatalyst, the research team coated a small piece of cotton cloth with the UC-POP-Au under direct sunlight to detoxify mustard gas simulant, a popular chemical warfare agent.

Displaying excellent performance compared to a regular polymer-based photocatalyst, the UC-POP-Au significantly expedited photocatalysis, say sources from IISER Bhopal.

IISER BhopalReusable

What stands out is that this photocatalyst is also reusable and can be used 5 times over. No significant change in the catalytic activity was observed during multiple uses, unlike some other catalysts, which can not be collected and reused.

Explored

The detoxification of chemical warfare agents is currently being explored all over the world. And with photocatalysts such as UC-POP-Au, that process can now become faster.

The research team suggests that the developed photocatalyst UC-POP-Au can be used for creating personal protective equipment and also has high application potential as promising materials for various other industries beyond the detoxification of chemical warfare agents.

The research team from IISER Bhopal is now further expanding the scope of their work in developing advanced materials for harnessing light energy to break down other toxic chemicals.

 

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