By printing sensor circuits on boring old disposable rubber gloves, researchers have converted them into handy, low-cost screening tools for chemical threats and toxic pollutants. That means someday, security agents might swipe their gloved fingertip on a bag and quickly get an alert for traces of nerve agents and explosives on their smartphone.
The glove sensors, printed with special stretchable conductive inks, can detect a class of phosphorus-based chemical compounds used as chemical weapons and pesticides. In addition to weapons screening, the new lab-on-a-glove could be useful for food safety and environmental inspections, says Joseph Wang, a nanoengineer at the University of California, San Diego who developed the device reported in the journal ACS Sensors.
The military today has portable test kits to detect nerve agent vapors and liquids, including VX, which is suspected to have been used to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Kuala Lumpur in February. Testing involves exposing test strips and reading them using portable instruments such as chromatographs or spectrometers. A wearable glove sensor would make it even easier and faster.