What is Smart Clothing Technology and How Does it Work?

Modern fabric technology includes the intelligent modification of clothes to produce a determined effect. Clothes can be re-designed with the aid of technology to change colors, block sunlight, collect medical data , emit vibrations, or even display custom messages. Here are some of the most amazing advancements in fabric technology and smart fabrics. Chain mail-based fabric for smart exoskeletons Hauberks, or chain mail shirts, were used in the Middle Ages, but they’ve certainly gone out of style, right? Wrong. They’ve only transformed into something else. In 2021, engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore created a chain mail-like material that goes from soft to stiff on command, bearing a load of 50 times its own weight when rigid. To construct the fabric, the team layered together hollow plastic or 3D-printed aluminum particles which interlock, allowing them to change shape but retain their rigidity. Unlike similar fabrics, which are “tuned” with electromagnetic fields, to make them stiffen or relax, the chain mail uses jamming transition. This is the same principle that causes a bag of vacuum-sealed rice to stiffen because the grains have no room to move. The particles are sealed into vacuum bags in a similar way. The fabric can support up to two pounds of weight when stiff, which is more than any other smart fabric designed to date. “Granular materials are a beautiful example of complex systems, where simple interactions at a grain scale can lead to complex behavior structurally. In this chain mail application, the ability to carry tensile loads at the grain scale is a game-changer. It’s like having a string that can carry compressive loads. The ability to simulate such complex behavior opens the door to extraordinary structural design and performance,” said José Andrade, Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering with expertise in granular material modeling. Potential applications for this fabric include protective armor, adaptive casts that change stiffness as the patient heals, bridges that can be rolled out and then stiffened in place, and exoskeletons, potentially allowing those with mobility issues to walk normally. Self-cleaning clothes Back in 2016, scientists at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, in Australia, developed a self-cleaning fabric by “growing” copper and silver nanostructures on the cotton fibers of a piece of cloth. The process of getting the metal nanostructures onto the textile involved priming the cotton fabric using an acidic solution of tin chloride, then dipping the fabric into a palladium salt solution, causing palladium (a rare metal) nuclei to spontaneously form on the fibers. Finally, copper and silver baths led to the growth of photoactive metal nanostructures. The metal atoms of these nanostructures get excited with light. When exposed to light, the material is able to break down organic matter, cleaning itself of stains and grime in less than six minutes. The invention may be useful in catalysis-based industries, such as agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, but there is still more work to do to improve the technique and […]

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