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Graphene tames flyaway wig hair

Langmuir-Blodgett coating with keratin nanocomposite improves hairpieces’ characteristics

by Neil Savage, special to C&EN
July 8, 2022

A strand of dark fibers is neat and flat while a strand of white fibers splays out due to static.
Credit: Appl. Mater. Interfaces
Synthetic fibers coated with a graphene oxide and keratin nanocomposite (left) accumulate less static than uncoated fibers (right).

People who wear wigs struggle with limitations of the hairpieces. Repeated washing, styling, and exposure to sunlight turn wigs dry and brittle. They can accumulate static that makes them wispy and can be hot to wear. Now, some chemical engineers say they have solved those problems by putting an even coat of graphene oxide onto wig hair using a venerable coating method (ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.2c05965).

Researchers had previously tried spray-coating human hair and synthetic hair with graphene oxide or immersing the strands in a keratin and clay mineral nanocomposite to improve their properties, but both methods failed to provide even coverage for all the fibers. Huali Nie and Guang Yang of Donghua University and colleagues turned to the Langmuir-Blodgett technique, which has been used for decades to apply thin film coatings, including more recently coating graphene oxide onto glass, silicon wafers, and quartz surfaces.

The researchers created a nanocomposite of graphene oxide and keratin derived from human hair. They placed the composite in a trough filled with water, where it spread out into a single-molecule-thick layer on the water’s surface. The sides of the trough were then moved inward, compressing the nanocomposite monolayer into a slightly denser film. Strands of both human and synthetic hair immersed in the water were drawn upward through the film, which adsorbed evenly on the surface of the hair.

The researchers exposed the coated hair to ultraviolet light, shampooed it repeatedly, and performed tests for static, which can cause flyaway strands, and thermal conductivity, which dictates how warm hair gets. In all cases, the hair performed better than untreated wig hair.



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