Color-changing glove warns of toxic substances


May 9, 2013

Scientists in Germany have developed a protective glove that warns lab workers of toxic substances in the air by immediately changing color (Copyright: Fraunhofer EMFT)

Scientists in Germany have developed a protective glove that warns lab workers of toxic substances in the air by immediately changing color (Copyright: Fraunhofer EMFT)

Laboratories that deal with dangerous chemicals devote a lot of time and money to ensuring the work environment is safe. Since many toxic substances lack a noticeable smell or color, the trick is finding a detection method that alerts employees to their presence as quickly and clearly as possible. Scientists at the the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies may have found a simple answer to that problem in the form of a protective glove that immediately changes color when it comes into contact with hazardous materials.

The researchers fashioned the glove from a textile coated in a dye containing specific sensor particles. These particles react to the presence of certain substances, like carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulfide, by turning a noticeable blue color instantaneously. And since this warning sign appears right on their hands, workers would know within seconds that a poisonous material is uncontained.

The team says the dye is versatile enough for typical manufacturing processes, silkscreening included, so it could easily be integrated into the safety gear that lab technicians and other workers already use.

The dye could also be attuned to other substances and turned into a tool for finding gas line leaks or indicating when food has spoiled.

The project is still in its early stages, and the researchers are working on an improved version of the dyed textile that could survive a trip through the wash and come in a variety of different colors. They're also looking into adding a sensor module that collects data on any toxic substances in the surrounding area and transmits it to a main hub for analysis.

Source: Fraunhofer Research Institution

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

This is a really neat idea! I think it would also be very useful for people working in hazardous environments in the manufacturing industry.

Emilio Reyes

That's a good idea. From cleaning a kitchen, to a machine shop or laboratory, you could use this everywhere.


Whilst this is a good idea as a starter, it has serious limitations. During the course of a working day a lab tech or process worker is likely to handle a wide range of toxic and corrosive substances, many of which will be liquid. A fabric glove is no protection against liquids or corrosive gasses.

In the two instances quoted in the article, H2S and CO, then yes they could be helpful. H2S has a very pungent and characteristic odour at low concentrations, but at the level at, or above, which it becomes toxic then the smell can not be detected. However, if one was knowingly working with either of these gasses then one would have electronic gas detection equipment monitoring the atmosphere.

If the dye can be applied to the surface of non-absorbent materials; nitrile, latex or PVC for example, then these would permit general use in almost any laboratory or production environment.

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