Mosquito bites are one of the major causes of deaths per annum – causing around 1 million deaths annually. Scientists have been trying to find innovative ideas to prevent them from spreading diseases and are now considering graphene as a possible solution.
Mosquitoes can act as a vector in the spread infectious diseases, including yellow fever, dengue, malaria and West Nile viruses. According to a survey done by the World Health Organization, malaria caused 438,000 deaths in 2015, making mosquitoes one of the deadliest animals on earth. They are also capable of biting through clothes, leading to an itchy feeling – that may last for a few minutes.
A recent study has shown that graphene can prove effective in preventing mosquito bites. Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms that is stronger than steel, a good conductor of electricity and invisible to the naked eye, making it a “super” material.
A paper published in the journal, PNAS, explored the use of graphene for repelling mosquitoes. According to the author, it can be used for a “variety of wearable technologies to provide advanced functions that include sensing; temperature regulation; chemical, mechanical, or radiation protection; or energy storage”.
An experiment was conducted on volunteers who placed their arms in a box full of mosquitoes for around 5 minutes. There were three categories of the participants:
- with a small patch of exposed skin
- exposed skin covered with cheesecloth
- exposed skin covered with graphene – applied directly – and then cheesecloth
The results showed 5-20 bites in the first two categories, however, no bites in the one with graphene. The mosquitos also spent less time on the skin with the graphene coating. According to Robert Hurt, study’s author, “We set out imagining that graphene film would act as a mechanical barrier, but after observing the mosquitos’ behaviour, we began to suspect they were not interested in biting”.
Even though, the trial was successful in most cases, the graphene layer was ineffective with water or sweat – no longer forming a barrier between the two organisms.