I designed a radiation shielding bra using carbon nanotube epoxy resin coated carbon unidirectional fiber fabric. The carbon nanotubes and carbon unidirectional fiber fabric reflect electromagnetic non-ionizing radiation, while the polymers of the epoxy absorb ionizing radiation (gamma and beta particles). To test this, I initially could not afford a Geiger Counter, so I built an ionization chamber out of a soup can. After saving babysitting money, I was able to purchase the device and confirm my ion-chamber data. For my radioactive source, I used uranium infused glass beads.

Radiation’s effects are an up-and-coming problem in today’s technologically advanced society. From nuclear meltdowns like Fukushima to deep space travel, to radon gas in basements, we are finding ourselves as a species more frequently exposed to various types of harmful radiation. In particular, flight attendants, nurses, radiologist, nuclear materials researchers, and astronauts are at increased risk of developing cancer caused by radiation exposure. Not to mention, the general public is constantly exposed to electromagnetic radiation emitted from our Bluetooth devices, WiFi and cell phones. Although electromagnetic radiation is much lower energy, over time the constant exposure poses a possible health risk. As, according to the American Cancer Society, the breasts are among the first organs to develop cancerous tumors after radiation exposure, they become an area of concern for radiation workers. Through this invention, I aim to contribute to the prevention of specific breast cancer by inventing a material to be used in bra padding that reduces dangerous exposure.

What inspired you (or your team)?

Cancer has plagued my family for generations. My grandfather has survived melanoma skin and bladder cancer, one of my grandmothers died from a cancerous brain tumor, the other from pancreatic cancer, my father has survived melanoma and thyroid cancer, and my aunt is a breast cancer survivor. As a result, for my last high school science fair, I wanted to do something to fight or prevent cancer. Initially, my goal was to design a mask to prevent radioactive radon gas, common in basements in northeastern America, from being inhaled, thereby preventing lung cancer. However, after coating my material in carbon nanotube epoxy, the epoxy sealed it, making it waterproof and airtight. Consequently, I was not able to transform it into a mask. After researching radiation exposure and how it affects the body, I discovered the sensitivity of the breasts and came up with the idea of creating a radiation shielding bra.