Researchers at the University of South Carolina have figured out how to combine the carbon component of cotton with boron to create a cotton t-shirt with the toughness of body armor.
The scientists started with plain, white T-shirts that were cut into thin strips and dipped into a boron solution. The strips were later removed from the solution and heated in an oven. The heat changes the cotton fibers into carbon fibers, which react with the boron solution and produce boron carbide.
Boron carbide is the same stuff that's used to protect tanks, but the boron carbide nanowire fabric that the USC team created has the added benefit of being flexible, lightweight, and elastic.