If you’ve ever watched a cephalopod such as a squid changing color, then you’ll know that it’s a pretty amazing process – they can instantly change the appearance of their skin from dark to light and back again, or even create pulsating bands of color that travel across it. They are able to do this thanks to muscles that manipulate the pigmentation of their skin. Now, scientists from the University of Bristol have succeeded in creating artificial muscles and cells, that might someday allow for the same sort of color changes in smart clothing that can camouflage itself against different backgrounds.
A patch about the size of the leather name tab on a pair of jeans could save your life one day – should you be stranded at sea, that is. In a project overseen by the European Space Agency (ESA), researchers from Finnish company Patria and the Tampere University of Technology have created a flexible fabric antenna, that can be sewn into life vests. Once activated, that antenna transmits its coordinates to earth-orbiting satellites, that can immediately relay the location to rescue personnel.
More and more we're hearing about clothing made from smart fabrics being used in the field of medicine
, to monitor patients wearing such garments. One of the latest examples is the "intelligent T-shirt," designed by scientists at Spain's Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). It can remotely monitor a person's temperature, heart rate, activity level, position and location.
In the recent past, we’ve seen outfits that incorporate bio-sensors
, and even a bikini
with integrated solar cells. One of the latest innovations in smart fabrics, however, allows a person’s clothing to act as multiple antennas. Developed at Ohio State University (OSU), the system could prove particularly useful to soldiers, who don’t want to be encumbered by a protruding whip antenna.
Not long ago, we reported on a prototype thin, flexible smartphone known as the Paperphone
. While it isn’t actually made out of paper, the success of a research project at North Carolina State University indicates that phones in the future could
be. Scientists there have been able to deposit conductive nanocoatings onto textiles, meaning that items such as pieces of paper or clothing could ultimately be used as electronic devices.
Finding inspiration from nature in order to refine and advance modern technologies is nothing new; Mercedes’ bionic car
was an interesting example and we’ve also seen a new ‘smart fabric’ based on the design of pine cones
. Perhaps one of the most inspiring species, certainly in the plant world, is the lotus, which has already contributed to the development of fog-free windscreens
and other surfaces along with improving the efficiency of solar cells
. Now NASA is looking to the Lotus Leaf to develop a non-stick surface for use on spaceflight equipment.
A micron-scale generator that uses zinc oxide wires to produce alternating current could be woven into clothing to power wireless devices or implanted in the body to monitor vital signs. A team led by Zhong Lin Wang at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Nanostructure Characterization has developed the generator, which can produce an oscillating output voltage of up to 45 millivolts.
You don’t often hear fashion mentioned in the same sentence as cutting edge medical technology (unless you watch Grey’s Anatomy), but shirts that double as health monitors are just one type of garment under consideration in the emerging smart fabrics industry
, a market that is estimated to be worth over €300 million, with a growth rate of roughly 20% per year.
It might not be the most chic of clothing items, but form takes a back-seat to function with this solar powered necktie. Designed to charge a mobile phone, the concept tie was created by researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) whilst experimenting with uses for photovoltaic (PV) textiles to create smart garments