Scientists working on chemical-free clothing to prevent mosquito bites

Mosquito (Culicidae sp) feeding, close-up

A mosquito hits the buffet line. 

Getty Images

In the never-ending quest to ward off mosquitoes, researchers at Brown University have found that clothes lined with the nanomaterial graphene could possibly keep the little blood suckers at bay. 

Graphene, which is 200 times stronger than steel and lighter than paper, is often referred to as a wonder material. In a study out Monday, the researchers said graphene could work toward mosquito bite prevention in two ways. For one, mosquitos can’t bite through it. For another, it could thwart the chemical signals that direct mosquitos to their next “blood meal.”

Now playing:
Watch this:

Five cool things that could be made with graphene


“Mosquitoes are important vectors for disease all over the world, and there’s a lot of interest in non-chemical mosquito bite protection,” said researcher Robert Hurt, an engineering professor at Brown. Some apparel already available for purchase comes infused with the insect repellent permethrin that promises to repel mosquitoes and ticks for a certain length of time. 

To test the graphene, volunteers stuck their arms in a “mosquito-filled enclosure” with a small patch of skin exposed. Those fortunate to have the patch of their arm covered in graphene received no bites. The mosquitoes were bred in a lab so the bold test subjects didn’t have to worry about diseases. 

“With the graphene, the mosquitoes weren’t even landing on the skin patch,” said lead author Cintia Castillho, a Ph.D. student at Brown. “They just didn’t seem to care.”