In much of the world, mosquitos are a minor inconvenience. But in others, mosquito-borne diseases like malaria present a serious public health crisis. Scientists are saying clothing incorporating graphene could block the chemical signals produced by sweat that make the insects bite us, without harsh repellent chemicals.
“We had been working on fabrics that incorporate graphene as a barrier against toxic chemicals, and we started thinking about what else the approach might be good for. We thought maybe graphene could provide mosquito bite protection as well,” Brown University professor Robert Hurt told The Independent.
Research participants subjected themselves to mosquito bites, placing their uncovered arms in an enclosure filled with the bloodsuckers. The research team then counted the number of bites participants received, both with bare skin and skin covered in cheesecloth, and compared it to the bites received on skin covered in a film of graphene oxide.
Not only did participants’ graphene oxide-treated skin not get bitten, the mosquitos seemed to show no interest in landing on it. “They just didn’t seem to care,” said study lead author Cintia Castilho, a Brown University PhD student.
This discovery led the team to believe that in addition to a physical obstruction, a chemical barrier provided by the graphene might play a role, blocking mosquitos’ ability to sense the signals our sweat sends out alerting them to our presence.
The team’s paper published in PNAS can be found here.