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Electronic Cotton

January 15, 2009

Electrically conductive cotton could be used to make clothes that monitor your health.


Clothes that could watch over you. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Imagine getting hurt and having your shirt call 911. It sounds bizarre, but that’s one possible application of a new fabric, developed by University of Michigan chemical engineer Nicholas Kotov and his colleagues. It’s a combination of plain old cotton, electrically conductive carbon nano-tubes, and biological molecules called antibodies. Kotov says the resulting material changes its conductivity when exposed to even tiny amounts of a target molecule.

NICHOLAS KOTOV (University of Michigan):
The fabric is not just sensitive, but it’s also very selective.

Theoretically, the material could be targeted to detect blood from a wound, or a chemical sign of illness or allergic reaction. And if you were incapacitated, it could interface with a cell phone to call for help. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.