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Year 7 & 8 TOC

Wow science

Gas masks in war

World War 1, aka, the first world war was fought between the 28th July 1914 to the 11th November 1918. 

During this time we saw an advancement in military technology and medical knowledge. Some of the notable inventions at this time were poison gas, machine guns, tanks, the first blood bank. 

For now, let’s talk about Gas masks, why they were needed and how they work. 

Chlorine and mustard gas were 2 extremely dangerous and deadly gases used during world war 1. To try and stop this gas from affecting soldiers, people invented gas masks.

Originally when chlorine gas was first used soldiers had no idea how to react. Eventually learnt that ammonia  neutralises the chlorine gas. They ended up using cotton pads soaked in urine (contains ammonia) to protect them from chlorine gas.

Particle Filtration

This is the simplest form of filtration. If you place a cloth to your face to avoid breathing dust, you’ve made a particulate filter. In gas masks that are used in biological warfare. The spaces in the mask can be extremely small.

The average bacteria is about 2 microns in size, most professional gas masks have filters which are 0.3 microns. However over time this gets clogged, meaning you need to replace it.

Chemical absorption

Although particle filtration can stop a number of biological attacks, they can not stop chemical weapons. Vapours or mists, such as nerve toxins can pass through a particle filtration system. During world war 1 mustard gas was used to kill the enemy. Mustard gas is an extermely painful gas, it is a chemical agent that causes severe burning of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. It can be absorbed into the body through inhalation, ingestion or by coming into contact with the skin or eyes. 

In most gas masks activated charcoal or oxidizes charcoal is used to capture the toxins. Activated charcoal is full of tiny little holes, at a molecular level. Making its surface area extremely high. As the toxin passes through the holes they are caught.

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