Featured Image for World’s first graphene dress lights up when you breathe

World’s first graphene dress lights up when you breathe

Fashion company CuteCircuit has come with new “smart dress” that responds to the body’s movements.

The graphene composite inside the dress has sensors that capture the wearer’s breathing patterns. A microprocessor then analyses this data and uses LED lights placed on transparent sections to change the colour of the dress.

The colours include purple, turquoise, orange and green, and they change according to how deeply the wearer breathes.

The hi-tech twist on the little black dress, made using graphene, was unveiled at the Trafford Centre in Manchester in honour of the city being named last year’s European City of Science.

Manchester was also the city in which graphene was discovered, in 2004. The scientists behind that discovery went on to win the Nobel prize in 2010.

CuteCircuit, which was also behind those Chuck Taylor wah-wahs, Katy Perry’s LED dress and the Twitter Dress, said that this was the first time that graphene had been used for fashion.

The dress is turning heads beyond the catwalk too.

Dr Paul Wiper, research associate at Manchester’s National Graphene Institute, told The Guardian: “This is a fantastic project; graphene is still very much in its infancy for real-world applications and showcasing its amazing properties through the forum of fashion is very exciting.”

So what exactly is graphene and what else can we do with it?

Graphene is made up of a thin layer of pure carbon atoms that are bonded together in a hexagonal lattice resembling a beehive. Looking at its properties, it’s easy to see why it’s thought of as a ‘super material’.


The pure carbon atoms of graphene.

At one atom thick, it is the thinnest and lightest material known to humankind. It is also the strongest (100-300 times stronger than steel) and the best (known) conductor of heat and electricity.

In 2013, Gizmodo did a piece on the wide-ranging potential applications of graphene, including faster internet speeds, better sports equipment, cleaner water and longer-lasting batteries.

The list goes on, and we are still figuring it out. You can already buy tennis rackets with the stuff in them, but more complex things like batteries are taking longer.

Australian scientists aren’t being left out of the action either. The BBC reports that researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have come up with a way to make graphene with soybean oil. It is hoped that this method will greatly reduce the cost of producing the wonder material in the future.

One of the persistent problems with wearable tech is that up until recently it has looked pretty dorky.

Watches were meant to be the game-changer, and Apple’s entry into the market in 2015 was supposedly the watershed moment. Almost two years later, Apple Watch sales are less than convincing, and some competitors have abandoned the market. The Year of the Wearable hasn’t really happened yet.

Meanwhile, companies such as Fossil have been moving into the direction of creating more stylish and less feature-obsessed devices.

This is the right way to go, because wearable tech should be ‘wearable’ first and ‘tech’ second, not the other way around. Otherwise, you might end up looking like one of the unfortunates in that Beyond 2000 episode from the ’90s. Ouch!

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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