You might not smell like roses after a hard workout, but no one will know thanks to this clever invention.

By Zee Krstic
Mike Tittel via Cultura RM / Getty Images

For most of us, excessive sweat and body odor is top of mind when we hit the gym for a long workout session. And while most people have a routine they follow to keep smells at bay, masking sweat may soon become easier thanks to the invention of a new kind of cotton, which reportedly emits "a lemongrass-derived scent used in some insect repellants" when exposed to sweat. This new take on cotton could one day be used by brands and retailers in the United States to create both fitness and everyday apparel.

A team of engineers from the University of Minho in Portugal have developed new processes to enhance basic cotton fabrics so that they release a citronella-like scent anytime they come into contact with sweat. While the idea of adding aromas to fabric isn't new—previous research has been conducted on how essential oils and aromatherapy could be applied to clothing—the researchers have established more streamlined methods for future production. According to their published research in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, scientists harnessed a protein found in pigs' snouts that binds to scent molecule and combined it with another carbohydrate-binding molecule that binds to cotton. They also experimented with liposomes to bind scents to cotton with good success. 

Related: What You Need to Know About Natural Versus Conventional Deodorant 

Then, researchers modified both the protein and the fat-like liposomes to physically release citronella scents when they come into contact with the acidic qualities of human sweat. The protein solution, according to their research, let off a "quick burst of scent" while the liposome solution slowly released the scent over an extended period of time. "Both strategies revealed high potential," the study reports. "Functional textiles incorporating fragrances could be an effective clothing deodorizing product."

While further research is needed to determine if success can be replicated with other scents beyond citronella, retailers may be able to apply the technology to summertime pest-repellent-products, since mosquitoes and other pests are often attracted to sweat and body odors. Check out other natural solutions to repel mosquitoes—and our guide to understanding what's biting you in the first place.

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