Scientists in the US have developed a process in which ordinary cotton fabric can be transformed into carbon fiber, the same material used in advanced ballistic armor of military fighting vehicles.

The process involves combining carbon in the cotton with boron, the third hardest substance on the planet.

“It could even be used to produce lightweight, fuel-efficient cars and aircrafts,” Xiaodong Li, from the University of Southern Carolina, wrote in the journal Advanced Materials.

T-shirts are dipped into a boron solution, then heated in an oven at more than 1000C, which changes the cotton fibers into carbon fibers.

The carbon fibers react with the boron solution to produce boron carbide. Boron Carbide is the same material used for military applications and some space applications, mostly as armor.

The resulting shirt was slightly stiffer than the original cotton Tshirt, but still flexible and light enough to be worn as one

“We expect that the nanowires can capture a bullet,” Prof Li said.

Prof Li said the T-shirts could also block “almost all” ultraviolet rays, and possibly life-threatening neutrons emitted from decaying radioactive material.

No word on when or if Levi will start making jeans out of the material.