By J. Michael Quante, AATCC Staff
Ponder This for a Moment…
What do supercapacitors, shape memory, phase change, sensors, supercontraction, piezoelectricity, robotics, nanotechnology, auxetics, and ultrasonics have in common? Well, science and engineering for one thing.
How about textiles? Yes, indeed.
Applications of these technologies and more were discussed by investigators from North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Textiles, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Shinshu University, and the University of Leeds at the NCSU Textile Summit held from March 21–22, 2017 at NCSU.
Textile researchers at the Summit explored scientific breakthroughs that are even now transforming wearable and other fiber- and fabric-based materials into platforms of high-tech functionality. What do you want your fabrics/fibers to do tomorrow?
Examples from the Summit
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Research by Zijian Zheng at Hong Kong Polytechnic University includes studies to produce textile-based electrochemical energy storage devices (TEESDs) or wearable supercapacitors. Supercapacitors offer advantages of greater electrical storage ability in a smaller area (i.e., no heavy batteries to wear), applicability to textile materials, and ability to recharge more times than conventional batteries or capacitors. This is a particularly hot area in e-textile research now.
The challenges of direct electrospinning of small molecules was discussed by Hiroaki Yoshida, assistant professor at Shinshu University. By electrospinning certain hydrophobic cyclodextrins, superhydrophobic (water repelling) nanofibers can be made.
University of Leeds
Jessica Rickman at the University of Leeds is finding new ways to use collagen by producing fibers to incorporate into medical implants. Current spinning technologies destabilize the collagen structure. By functionalizing and crosslinking collagen during wet spinning, longer, more stable, and more useful fibers can be produced.
North Carolina State University
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are being made into nonwoven fabrics and used in coatings to provide electrical conductivity and strength to lightweight textiles in innovative ways. Philip Bradford and his team at NCSU have developed techniques to grow millimeter-long CNT on an activated surface that can then be pulled off in sheet form, creating nonwovens. These CNT nonwoven fabrics are held together without binder and can be held in the hand like fabric. Among other amazing CNT forms produced in Bradford’s lab, his group has also created an extremely low-density, lightweight CNT foam. Potential applications include use for impact absorption, vibration dampening, energy storage electrodes, and filtration.
A Peak Experience
Work at these four great textile research universities are paving the way for new materials and processing methods that are revolutionizing what textiles can do. Based on the view at this Summit, the future of textile innovation has a limitless horizon!
Opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and not necessarily those of AATCC.