Wearable tech: This dress uses graphene to light up when you breathe

Story highlights

  • Fashion Company CuteCircuit has used the material graphene to create a dress
  • Graphene is the strongest material in the world

(CNN)The little black dress just got revamped.

Together with scientists, fashion designers have used graphene -- a Nobel-Prize winning material that's tougher than diamonds -- to give their LBD a high-tech cut.
"We are trying to showcase the amazing properties of graphene," Francesca Rosella, the co-founder of fashion company CuteCircuit, told CNN.
    "If you look under an electron microscope, you can see how the structure of graphene is made up of what looks like hexagonal crystals. We used that structure as a starting point to design the dress."
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    For CuteCircuit's dress, the team created a graphene composite that conducts electricity.
    The dress has graphene-enhanced sensors lined throughout the garment's top half that capture the wearer's breathing patterns.
    A microprocessor that powers the dress analyzes this data, causing LED lights -- placed on transparent graphene elements -- on the dress to change color.
    Deep breaths turn the lights from purple to turquoise, while lighter ones make the LEDs switch from orange to green.
    Rosella, whose creations have been worn by the likes of Katy Perry and Nicole Scherzinger, called "the world's first graphene dress" a new step for the fashion industry.
    The futuristic LBD is on show at the intu Trafford Center, a shopping and leisure complex in Manchester, and is set to tour museums around the UK.

    Leveraging the 'wonder material's' properties

    Graphene was first discovered in 2002 by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, physics professors at the University of Manchester.
    It won a Nobel Prize in 2010 and is known as a wonder material that's one atom thick. It's everything from lightweight and conductive to flexible and thermal.
    "There's a lot of potential for graphene within the textile industry," Paul Wiper, a research associate at the National Graphene Institute who worked with Rosella, told CNN.
    That's down to the material's versatility, according to Wiper.
    For instance, graphene can be made into a solution or powder that can be dispersed onto or combined with different materials to create a graphene composite that conducts electricity.
    As well as being incredibly strong, graphene is pliable like rubber and can carry a thousand times more electricity than copper.
    Wiper said that in the future, researchers could add a special graphene coating to clothes to improve their resistance to fire. Graphene-enhanced smog masks that shield the wearer from pollutants are another possibility.
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    In January, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used computer modeling to design a new -- currently nameless -- material: a sponge-like configuration that is just 5% the density of steel and about 10 times as strong.
    This makes it both extraordinarily light but able to carry heavy loads -- properties that make graphene ideal for future use in design or architecture.
    For the moment, CuteCircuit's LBD has only made use of small amounts of graphene as the expensive material isn't yet mainstream.
    So while the dress provokes thought on the future uses of graphene, it'll still be some time before clothes combined with the material hit the mall.