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Hohenstein Institute studies graphene for use in PPE

Using graphene to modify the surface can significantly improve the flame-retardant properties of a textile, the Hohenstein Institute reports.

6th March 2015

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Boennigheim

Protective, Clothing/​Footwear

While research is making rapid progress especially in the field of conductivity, the use of graphene in the textile sector has so far been somewhat overlooked, believes a team of researchers at the Hohenstein Institute.

The institute, in partnership with the companies IoLiTec Ionic Liquids Technologies from Heilbronn and FUCHSHUBER TECHNO-TEX- from Lichtenstein, and Belgian project partners Centexbel and Soieries Elite, have been working on a research project designed to address this problem.

Graphene, which comes with up to 10 layers, is an expensive 'all-rounder'. It is not a natural resources that is found in the ground but must be manufactured. © /wikipedia

A German research sub-project called GRAFAT – Using graphene for the surface modification of textiles in heat protective clothing is run by scientists at the Hohenstein Institute, by a team led by Project Manager Dr Roshan Paul, working within the EU research funding programme M-era.Net.


Graphene is a single layer of pure carbon just one atom thick, in the form of a honeycomb lattice made up of hexagons. A distinction is made between single-layer and multi-layer graphene and graphene with more than 10 layers, resulting in different properties, which makes this material extremely versatile.

Ultra-thin and therefore transparent, it is an extremely efficient conductor of electricity and heat, with higher tensile strength than steel, yet flexible and abrasion-resistant and impermeable to gases.

By linking graphene oxide or functionalising it with other molecules or atoms, different chemical properties can be produced in the material.

Personal Protective Equipment

Using graphene to modify the surface can significantly improve the flame-retardant properties of a textile. Graphene can act as a physical barrier, effectively preventing the penetration of heat and gases. At the same time, graphene also has the potential to prevent the thermal decomposition of the textile. Another benefit of graphene is its resistance to abrasion and rupture.

Graphene has outstanding properties as a fire-resistant material: it acts as a physical barrier that prevents the diffusion of heat, gases and the by-products of thermal decomposition, and has extremely high rupture resistance. © Hohenstein Institute

Normally, the functionalisation of textiles for PPE requires a multi-stage process. This may no longer be necessary if graphene can be applied in a single-stage process. The material used for PPE could then be thinner and therefore lighter. This in turn increases the wearer’s mobility.

“If their functionality can be successfully proven, textiles with graphene-modified surfaces could find many uses in the PPE sector, especially in heat protective clothing,” said Dr Paul. This would open up a new market segment for the use of graphene, further enhancing the economic success of innovative companies and the industry in general.

Graphene modifications

“Over the next three years, the consortium will be investigating to what extent the surface of textiles can be changed using graphene modifications , in particular with a view to later applying the process to heat protective clothing,” explained Dr Paul.

The graphene-based textiles are being tested for compliance with DIN standards on resistance to heat and flame spread, tensile strength, burst pressure and tear propagation. Their absorption of infrared heat radiation (IR absorption) is also of great interest. © Dupont

“Graphene has all kinds of positive properties which would revolutionise this sector. This research makes us world leaders in using graphene modification on textile surfaces.” The transformation of the various graphene modifications into stable aqueous dispersions is being carried out by Iolitec (Ionic Liquids Technologies).

Permanent textiles coating

The aim of the Hohenstein research team is to develop stable techniques for applying aqueous graphene dispersions, so that they can be used as a permanent coating on different textile surfaces. A range of different graphene modifications are being considered, since they each have different properties.

The newly developed surface modifications for the various textiles will then be analysed for their suitability for heat protective equipment. In the research work, the company FUCHSHUBER TECHNO TEX has the task of converting the application formula that has been developed to an industrial scale and ensuring that the treated textiles can be cleaned and processed. The aim is to produce a demonstrator model.

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