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Color-Changing Ink Turns Clothes into Giant Chemical Sensors

A color-changing ink made from silk proteins displays changes in pH. Credit: Silk Lab, Tufts University A new color-changing ink could aid in health and environment monitoring—for example, allowing clothing that switches hues when exposed to sweat or a tapestry that shifts colors if carbon monoxide enters a room. The formulation could be printed on anything from a T-shirt to a tent.

Wearable sensing devices such as smartwatches and patches use electronics to monitor heart rate, blood glucose, and more. Now researchers at Tufts University’s Silklab say their new silk-based inks can respond to, and quantify, the presence of chemicals on or around the body. Silk’s ability to “act like a protective ‘cocoon’ for biological materials” means the necessary sensing and color-changing materials can be added to the ink without losing their function, says Fiorenzo Omenetto, a biomedical engineer at Silklab and senior author of a new paper on the technology. Illustration of how pH-sensitive ink changes based on exposure. Credit: Silk Lab, Tufts University The researchers had created an earlier version of the material that inkjet printers could spray on fabric, turning small items, such as patches or gloves, into sensors. For the recent study, published online in May […]

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