Come in contact with toxic substances while working in a lab and you’ll literally be caught red handed (or blue in this case). New gloves are being developed now at the Fraunhofer Research Institution that will alert wearers that they’ve been exposed to chemicals or other poisons. The gloves are equipped with a custom senor material that when exposed to hazardous substances, turns it blue. This immediate and real-time feedback will help researchers, lab techs and scientists avoid overexposure and encourage safer lab habits.
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Researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT in Regensburg are developing a glove that recognizes toxic substances and then alerts the wearer immediately to the exposure. Custom made indicator dye are integrated into the gloves that change color in the presence of a specific substance, say carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulfide. When the color emerges, the wearer can immediately take action to stop the leak or exposure and remove themselves from danger.
This technology can be applied to more than just gloves and the researchers have come up with a variety of ways to integrate the custom dyes into textiles. The sensor-activated dyes can be applied through a customary dye and print process in an immersion bath, can be integrated into inks for silkscreening, or other textile coating processes.
Challenges still lie ahead for the research team though. “The dye molecule must detect a specific analyte in a targeted manner – only then will a chemical reaction occur. Moreover, the dye must adhere securely; it cannot disappear due to washing,” explains Dr. Sabine Trupp, head of the Fraunhofer EMFT Sensor Materials group. “We aim for the customer’s preferences in the color selection as well. All of these aspects must be kept in mind when developing the molecule and pigment properties.” The technology could also be applied in different cases, say for instance integrated with a time and data recording sensor to measure and monitor long term exposures. Textiles like these could also be used to alert consumers of bad food that may spoil before the “best by” date.