The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has developed a new fabric that protects its wearer from chemical and biological agents. The research was done in collaboration with various universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, among others. The new fabric will help to protect troops by shedding the contaminated layers – just like snakeskin.

The new high-tech material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. These nanometer-wide tubes work as an “intelligent” layer on top of the fabrics. If a soldier is attacked by hazardous agents, the tubes will switch from a resting mode to a protective mode, closing the fabrics pores and preventing body contact with the agents. The next line of defense is a second layer that will absorb the toxic material and peel it off, just like natural snake skin. “The uniform will be like a smart second skin that responds to the environment,” says Francesco Fornasiero, the principal investigator for this project.

Compared to conventional protective military uniforms, the new nanotechnology is more breathable and prevents the soldiers from heat fatigue while protecting them from hazards such as anthrax spores or sulfur mustard.

The new snake skin fabric is the result of a five-year, $13 million Defense Threat Reduction Agency project.