Clothing, especially pants and socks, are prone to holes. Some of you may be patient and try to stitch them, while others may just throw them away. However, our future may some day include self repairing clothing. A research group at Penn State has created a polymer coating that enables normal textiles to repair themselves in the wash, according to E&T Magazine. It’s based on the same technology as squids. Uhm, what? I had to go to the source, Penn State News, for this one.
Polyelectrolyte coatings are made up of positively and negatively charged polymers, in this case polymers like those in squid ring teeth proteins.
“Fashion designers use natural fibers made of proteins like wool or silk that are expensive and they are not self-healing,” said Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics. “We were looking for a way to make fabrics self-healing using conventional textiles. So we came up with this coating technology.”
There’s a lot more potential for this fabric besides it’s self-repairing quality; it may be able to guard the wearer from threats. Think of it as a protective skin embedded with the antidote.
“If you need to use enzymes for biological or chemical effects, you can have an encapsulated enzyme with self-healing properties degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin,” said Demirel.
You can see that this technology would be perfect for people doing hazardous work like fire-fighters, chemical workers, policemen and farmers. It’s no surprise that support for the project is from The Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research. I’d be curious if the process can be used for scuba wear considering divers are hired to investigate oil spills. Considering the coating is less than a micron thick, I think consumers may even have a shot at seeing this in stores for sportswear. The real problem is that this product is the opposite of planned obsolescence—it creates sustainability. Is the world ready for clothing that lasts a long time? That’s probably a decision that will have a lot to do with price point.
Textiles continue to be transformed, whether it be with coatings or fibers. One of my faves is conductive fabric because you can use it as a softer way to trigger electronics in clothing. Check out this soft Knit Jersey that’s a nice blend of cotton, silver yarn and spandex. What would you use it for?
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