Scientists in Korea have developed wearable, graphene-coated fabrics that can detect dangerous gases present in the air, alerting the wearer by turning on an LED light.
The researchers, from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, a non-profit Korean government-funded research organization, and Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea, coated cotton and polyester yarn with a nanoglue called bovine serum albumin. The yarns were then wrapped in graphene oxide sheets.
Graphene is a very strong one-atom-thick layer of carbon known for its conduction of heat and electricity. Testing showed the fabrics retained their electrical conducting properties after 1,000 consecutive cycles of bending and straightening and 10 washing tests with various chemical detergents. The graphene oxide yarns were also exposed to a chemical reduction process, which involves the gaining of electrons.
The reduced graphene-oxide-coated materials were particularly sensitive to detecting nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant gas found in fossil-fuel combustion, including vehicle exhaust. Prolonged exposure to nitrogen dioxide can be dangerous to human health, causing many respiratory-related illnesses. Exposure of the treated fabrics to nitrogen dioxide led to a change in the electrical resistance of the reduced graphene oxide.
The technology, according to the researchers, would allow outdoor wearers to receive relevant information about air quality. The materials could also be incorporated with air-purifying filters to act as “smart filters” that can both detect and filter harmful gas from the air.