Researchers from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and Konkuk University in the Republic of Korea have developed graphene enhanced fabrics that are able to detect lethal gases present in the air. The e-fabric alerts the wearer of danger by using an LED indicator. Cotton and polyester yarn is coated with a “nanoglue” known as bovine serum albumin (BSA). The fabric is then wrapped in a layer of graphene oxide sheets.
Graphene is an incredibly strong one-atom-thick layer of carbon, and is known for its excellent conductive properties of heat and electricity. The graphene oxide sheets adhered easily to the nanoglue. Testing showed that the fabrics were able to retain their electrical conducting properties even after a thousand consecutive bending, straightening and washing cycles. Finally, the graphene oxide strands were subjected to a chemical reduction process, which involves the gaining of electrons.
The reduced graphene oxide coated material was found to be particularly effective at detecting nitrogen dioxide which is a pollutant commonly found in vehicle exhaust created as a byproduct of fuel combustion. Nitrogen dioxide exposure can be harmful to human health, causing many respiratory-related illnesses. When the e-fabric is exposed to the nitrogen dioxide, the electrical resistance of the reduced graphene oxide changes.
Just 30 minutes of exposure to 0.25 parts per million of nitrogen dioxide (which is just under five times above the acceptable standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) caused the material to elicit a response. The material is three times more sensitive to nitrogen dioxide in the air compared to a reduced graphene oxide sensor that was prepared on flat material.
Researchers report that the graphene enhanced fabric could be immediately adopted in related industries as the process of coating is relatively simple. Mass production of this material is possible. The safety applications are expansive, and the fabric could become standard safety equipment across many industries like O&G and mining. The material could also be combined with air-purifying filters to act as “smart filters” that could detect and filter harmful gas from air.
“This sensor can bring a significant change to our daily life since it was developed with flexible and widely used fibers, unlike the gas sensors invariably developed with the existing solid substrates,” says Dr. Hyung-Kun Lee, who led this research initiative. The study was published on June 4 in the online edition of Scientific Reports, a journal from the publishers of Nature
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