The Guardian has a great post on seven fabrics inspired by nature. Seen above is the lotus effect which has inspired water-repellent and self-cleaning materials and fabrics.
Water spilled on a lotus leaf does not wet its surface but simply beads up and rolls off, cleaning its surface from accumulated dust and dirt in the process. This effect is known as “superhydrophobicity”, which researchers have mimicked to create water-repellent and self-cleaning materials and fabrics. When your raincoat stays dry during a downpour or when a white dress repels a red wine stain, it is down to the lotus effect.
Golden Orb spider silk cape: Although humans learned to spin silk from silkworms as early as 3500 BC, spider silk was introduced much later, in 18th century France. Silk-weaving from spiders was encouraged by the French colonial government in Madagascar in late 19th century, but the tradition had all but died out until entrepreneur Nicholas Godley and textile expert Simon Peers revived it in 2012 by creating a silk cape made from the silk of 1.2 million Golden Orb spiders. Lightweight yet super-strong, spider silk is also being used to produce bulletproof clothing that is superior to Kevlar.
Dye-free fabrics from butterflies: Morpho butterflies’ wings appear cobalt blue despite lacking colour pigment. This optical illusion is due to the many layers of protein on the scales of the butterflies’ wings that refract light in different ways. In 2010, Australian designer Donna Sgro created a dress made from Morphotex – a fabric that imitates the microscopic structure of the wing using nanotechnology. This innovation also saves on water and energy used in conventional dyeing. Although Morphotex is no longer manufactured, butterflies’ iridescent wings have inspired another technological breakthrough – displays for mobile phones and other electronic devices that can be viewed under any light conditions.
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