Smart fabrics are alive and well

2016-10-20 AquaClean Technology

We all know about those fantastic advances in science and technology in fields such as machinery, medicine and security, giving us ultra-smart mobiles, robotics and instantaneous fingerprint readers.

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But technology is not just limited to these fields. Trades such as the textile industry also have a lot to say nowadays. Materials designed in laboratories or fibres created and modified by innovative researchers are only the beginning. Progress in recent times is so impressive that science fiction seems to have invaded the textile trade. So today, we’re offering you some examples of where all this innovation in fabrics is leading us – innovation that ends up in the upholstery you use for your seating at home.

Extreme fabrics for extreme situations

As mankind has achieved technological advances such as the first man on the moon, the improvement of arms and munitions, or research into extreme climates, we have had to modify and improve our clothing, as floating around in outer space in our pyjamas isn't very recommendable yet! In view of this, a series of super-fibres or super-fabrics have been created, endowed with nanofibres in nickel, copper or silver, which are highly flexible and imperceptible to the human eye, but make a lot of difference, because they are ideally suited to different types of situations.

It is clearly the military sector that has invested the most in research and improvements for textiles, as they are always interested in the latest developments for better uniforms and other military materials.

The idea is to create clothes that react symbiotically with the environment, that is, uniforms that "change colour depending on the surroundings," like chameleons, with fabrics that improve protection and communication between troop members.

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The same thing has happened in the field of space aviation, where the fabrics used in astronaut suits are vital. And this is not just for safety, but for comfort as well, especially when astronauts leave their ships to space-walk outside. And the same goes for other missions where humans have to perform under extreme environmental conditions. The fabrics used in clothes and uniforms may play a decisive role, protecting against fire, insulating against cold or water, providing a barrier against radioactivity and many other uses.

For health, fabrics are also important

Most of us may not find ourselves in the kind of extreme situations we are talking about, but even in the medical sector, sometimes a simple fabric can save your life.

Over the last century, with the professionalisation of sports and athletes, a huge industry has evolved along with sports activities, and both amateurs and pros care about what they wear, and it's not just fashion, either. We're talking about underwear capable of reacting to bodily changes and warning users of possible heart problems, such as the fabric that Philips researchers have already created.

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Or for example, a study being undertaken by the Belgian Textile Research Centre (Centexbel) to help in the rehabilitation of paralysed limbs. This technology is based on electrode stimulation of the muscles, transmitting microcurrents through the fibres to the paralysed area.

A world full of possibilities ...

But this revolution in textile technology goes far beyond this, extending into the fashion, upholstery or design markets as well. Today we can find clothing that uses fibres filled with microcapsules, making the garment change depending on temperature or light, or repelling mosquitoes with a fragrance given off by the fabric itself (skunk evolution®).

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Research on technological and innovative fabrics and textiles comes from the laboratory. In the fashion world, we can find designers like the Frenchman Olivier Lapidus, who has already mixed the latest technologies with fashion creations, making jackets that regulate fabric temperature, among other things. Or the designer Elisabeth Senneville, who is studying the creation of clothes that filter out environmental pollution.

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Another clear example of textile innovation  (www.aquaclean.com/ES_es) can be found in our own in-house laboratories, where we created Aquaclean Technology®, a special fibre treatment (www.aquaclean.com/ES_es/que-es-aquaclean) for upholstery fabrics that allows you to clean off all types of stains with a little water in just a few minutes.

So, as you can see, technology is not just about machines and devices, but is actually part of everyday lives in many other things, making life easier and safer on a daily basis.