During the course of history, human-transmitted diseases to mosquitoes have probably caused more suffering than all wars combined. Current mosquito control techniques usually involve chemicals, but they can have side effects for us as well as for the environment. Thick clothes can help, but as everyone who has spent time outdoors, where mosquitoes are endemic, knows, they tend to be persistent and find a way to take a bite.
Now, researchers at Brown University are reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on a new material that can hide the carrier of mosquitoes by preventing the chemicals that attract them from penetrating through the tissue. In addition, the material also helps to physically prevent mosquitoes from sticking their mouthparts to the skin.
The new material is composed of several layers of graphene oxide. Graphene is a thick carbon sheet of an atom and graphene oxide is a derivative that turns graphene into large sheets.
Although graphene has a variety of unusual and interesting properties, its thicker layers seem to block the passage of many chemicals released by the skin and excreted by perspiration. Mosquitoes use these chemicals to spot their prey. Therefore, blocking these products helps to avoid attracting mosquitoes.
To prove that their equipment works, some brave people ready to be exposed to dozens of mosquitoes were recruited. Their arms were placed in a room filled with mosquitoes, but only a small part of the skin was exposed. This section was either completely bare, covered with a cheese cloth, or multilayer sheets of graphene oxide. The results showed that the graphene-based material was so effective that the mosquitoes did not usually look at the juicy skin just in front of them, while they landed and took a bite of the bare skin and covered with cheese skin.
Study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Prevention of mosquito bites through graphene barrier layers
Flashback: Graphene: the next medical revolution