Fabrics that monitor vital signs, warn of allergens or cool people with heat stroke may not be far into the future, if Nicholas Kotov, a professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan, has his way. Kotov coated cotton with a mixture of carbon nanotubes and a conductive polymer, creating threads that carry enough current to make wearable biosensing technologies a reality.
Kotov decorated the carbon nanotubes with antibodies to the human blood protein albumin; the threads can detect human blood. The textiles don’t respond to bovine albumin, demonstrating how specific the sensors are to the target. Threads woven into a soldier’s uniform could alert a remote medical team that he’d been wounded through a wearable computer. Textiles incorporating antibodies could alert the wearer to allergens by illuminating an LED light or sending a cell phone message. Read more about the biosensor fibers in a December Scientific American feature at www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=carbon-nanotube-clothing.