Cloth that can detect oxygen levels

Scientists in China have developed a cloth that have the ability to change color as the oxygen level falls.

This cloth is especially helpful for mountaineers, miners and space explorers.

Researchers from Xiamen University have combined the chameleon cloth with a digital camera to take real time images to read oxygen levels.

Xi Chen, one of the researchers in this project, said, ‘When I saw on television that coal miners were trapped in mines and died because of a lack of oxygen, I felt sad and tried to figure out a simple method to detect oxygen.’

The scientists coated oxygen sensitive polystyrene microparticles on cotton thread and then embroidered this thread into a piece of cloth. The microparticles than were loaded with a blue hydrophobic stilbene reference dye and an oxygen-sensitive red dye. One of the biggest challenges, faced by scientists was the selection of proper dye as the dye which they had to select must be hydrophobic, less toxic or non-toxic, stable to light and do not leak after encapsulation.

Chen said, “Since the blue reference emission and the red oxygen-dependent emission match the blue and red channels of the chip in digital cameras, respectively, it is possible to analyse the brightness signal recorded in colour images,”. The blue dye didn’t respond to oxygen but red dye is very sensitive and its intensity changes with changed oxygen concentration i.e. color emission is decreased with increasing oxygen concentration.


Wang, X. et. al. (2011). Chameleon clothes for quantitative oxygen imaging. Journal of Materials Chemistry, DOI: 10.1039/C1JM14162G

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