Almost half the world's population is at risk for mosquito–transmitted malaria; this dreaded disease actually killed nearly 445,000 people in 2016. Scientists recently discovered that by using graphene-lined clothing, we can drastically reduce the frequency of mosquito bites and thus help stop the spread of deadly diseases like malaria. The researchers from Brown University published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What is Graphene?
Graphene is a mineral which, when incorporated into fabric, is super-thin, incredibly strong, and blocks the odors of sweat that encourage the bloodsuckers to bite.
What the Graphene Does
The graphene provides a physical barrier that not only prevents the detection of the odor of sweat, but also offers a barrier that is too strong for the mosquitos to bite through.
Growing Interest in Non-Chemical Protection
The study's senior author Professor Robert Hurt says there is a lot of interest in non-chemical mosquito bite protection. Hurt is leading the clothing's development team. When they started thinking about what else the approach might be good for, they had been working on fabrics that use graphene as a barrier against toxic chemicals. Then they realized that perhaps graphene could provide mosquito bite protection as well.
Methodology for the Study
Hurt's research team compared the number of bites that participants received on their bare skin, to volunteers who had their skin covered in cheesecloth, and to volunteers whose skin was covered by graphene oxide (GO) films sheathed in cheesecloth.
The Graphene Changed Mosquito Behavior
The scientists were surprised to discover that the mosquitoes completely changed their behaviors in the presence of the graphene-covered arm. The insects had no interest in the graphene-covered patch of skin; they weren't even landing on it.
Blocking the Odor was a Bonus
The professors had assumed that graphene would be a physical barrier to biting, because it is puncture-resistant, but when they saw the actual experiments, they began to think that it was also a chemical barrier as well. Later tests demonstrated GO was puncture-resistant to mosquito bites, but only when it was dry.
The scientists discovered that they could incorporate breathability into the clothing, and still have a material too strong for mosquitoes to bite through. A more sophisticated form of GO with reduced oxygen content called rGO was shown to provide a barrier while it was wet or dry. However, since it wasn't particularly breathable, the scientists are now working to stabilize the regular GO to be tougher when wet. Their next step will provide the full benefits of breathability with bite protection as well. Let us hope that breakthrough happens soon.
To read the entire article, visit Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Author's Note: In the event that you do get bitten by mosquitos, use the Therapik or an alternative heat source to neutralize the component in their saliva that causes the itch. Go to Therapik.com for more information.
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