Another potential use for graphene? Making optimised sportswear

27 Aug 2021

A researcher analysing the data from the graphene trials. Image: University of Gloucestershire

Researchers are investigating graphene as a key material in sportswear as it has unique thermal and moisture management properties.

Potential uses of graphene span across scientific fields and disciplines. Its superconductive properties could make it useful for quantum computing. Or maybe its flexibility is what is best about it – being incredibly strong but still capable of forming wearable medical devices.

An ability to cope with heat and sweat might not seem like the next logical trial, but researchers at the University of Gloucestershire are focused on just that. They have teamed up with engineering materials company Versarien, which designs all kind of products using the carbon material, to trial graphene’s potential applications in sportswear.

Upper body sportswear will be applied with Versarien’s graphene inks via a screen printing process. These will then be used by national-level runners at the university’s sports arena and science labs.

The responses to the graphene sportswear will be evaluated through blood and urine samples, as well as body temperature and cardiorespiratory performance. The research will also pay attention to the psychological reactions to wetness, thermal sensations and comfort. Finally, sweat absorption and retention will be assessed using real-time thermographics.

“We’re delighted to be strengthening our links with Versarien in a study that is contributing to the development of innovative garments and that could potentially transform the sportswear industry,” said Athanassios Bissas, project lead and professor of sport and exercise technologies at the University of Gloucestershire

“This project provides an excellent opportunity for our department, its postgraduates and students to serve and interact with real-life science applications and advance their laboratory and analytical skills.

“We’re excited to be developing contemporary analysis techniques supported by AI, such as thermal imaging analysis, that can enable us to become an international player in the area of sportswear testing.”

Dr Sofie Kent, senior lecturer in sport and exercise psychology, explained the importance of sports clothing in performance. She particularly highlighted that an individual’s perception of their own movement and how the garment can affect the perception of effort is central to an athlete’s actions.

“Subsequently, by exploring and understanding an individual’s thoughts and feelings of clothing we can have a better understanding behind the mechanisms that may facilitate improved performance,” she said.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news