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Textile Tech: How the Clothes We Wear Could Save Us and the Planet

By Lito Carasig - Friday, June 24, 2011

I bet that when you woke up this morning you never even gave an afterthought about what you were putting on; just a common daily routine of getting dressed and going about your business. Who would have ever thought that the clothes we take for granted could one day save us and the earth from all the hazards that exist in our future?

Scientists are quietly working their magic to turn the ancient art of cloth weaving into something far more exciting than your common silk tie or pure cotton boxers; something that could someday make laundering our clothes a thing of the past, or even more exciting, making clothes that would generate electricity that could power the various gadgets that modern man has begun to carry with them at all times. 

Employing nanotechnology, organic chemistry, thermoelectrics and other sciences, engineers and designers are combining technology and fashion to come up with not only new trendsetting designs, but also super functional clothes that could meet our ever increasing needs for energy and personal safety.

For starters, we take a look at Kevlar which is a synthetic blend of fiber and used a bulletproof protection.  By incorporation wool in the Kevlar weave, designers could make the material waterproof by increasing its water absorption and at the same time improve its strength thus making it more durable, lighter and easier to make.

Lamination Technologies has designed a flameproof suit made of a special fiber that protects the wearer against temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees F and it does this by preventing the formation of hot air pockets. 

Cornell researchers were able to design a cloth made of cellulose fibers and crystalline compounds that are arrayed in a metal-organic framework (MOF) molecule.  Because these frameworks form a porous lattice, they trap and store gas molecules.  The fabric can then be designed to allow or inhibit certain gaseous compounds to flow because the pore structures can be custom fitted to unique molecular structures. These can then be used as surgical masks or safety mask that can effectively block unwanted substances or gases from entering the wearer’s system.

Geeky enough for you yet ?  Well we’re only just scratching the surface of what may be possible to achieve.

Scientists and designers are working hand in hand to create more functional textiles to fit our current and future needs. From soundproofing curtains to extremely waterproofed fabrics to energy converting draperies, the future of textile tech is very fertile and the seeds of technology have been planted.  All we need to do now is to nurture it and eventually harvest the fruits of our labors.

Self-cleaning clothes anyone ? We live in interesting times with our immediate future looking like it will be a very exciting place to be.

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