You don't have to wait until you're enveloped in a cloud of noxious fumes - because where's that gas mask when you need it? - to know you're in harm's way.
Scientists in South Korea are working on a graphene-coated fabric that senses deadly chemicals and then lights up a warning.
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The fabric is made from a cotton and polyester yarn coated in a special glue and then wrapped in sheets of graphene oxide. Graphene is strong and conducts heat and electricity better than copper wires.
In lab experiments, the fabric was three times as sensitive to nitrogen dioxide - a harmful pollutant common in vehicle exhaust - compared to another graphene sensor the team had previously developed.
The researchers connected the electronic fabric to an LED bulb, which lit up when nitrogen dioxide was present.
Because coating the fabric in graphene is not complicated, the scientists think their sensor could be adapted fairly easily.
"This sensor can bring a significant change to our daily life since it was developed with flexible and widely used fibers," Hyung-Kun Lee, who led this research initiative at Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and Konkuk University in South Korea, told Phys.Org.
Not only was making the fabric pretty straightforward, but it seems to be durable. After 10 washings and 1,000 consecutive bending and straightening cycles, the fabric still proved to conduct electricity.
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Maybe one day, you'll wear a T-shirt that's able to sense air quality and deliver an alert to your smartphone. Or the yarns could be incorporated into air-purifying filters to detect any harmful gases passing through.
The researchers reported their work in the journal Scientific Reports.