The trickiest part of avoiding exposure to toxic substances is that they're often invisible, odorless, and undetectable to our five senses. And as an alternative to expensive detectors and other electronic sensors, researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT in Regensburg have created a simple pair of gloves that turn colour in the presence of toxic airborne materials.
The gloves are covered in a specially synthesised indicator dye that reacts to toxic substances by changing color. And the dye's chemical makeup can be tweaked to detect various toxins, like carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulfide.
The tricky part of developing the gloves has been engineering a colour-changing dye that will adhere to the fabric even through washes, so that they don't lose their effectiveness and miss a potential risk. But once perfected the gloves could also be used to detect issues and contamination in food packaging facilities, or allow inspectors to easily find dangerous leaks in gas lines. All I want is a pair that detects the common cold so I know not to shake someone's hand in the winter. [Fraunhofer]