Clothing That Self-Heals [Video]


According to TECH TIMES, scientists at Pennsylvania State University are conducting new research on fabric that self-heals, or repairs itself. The team has found that after dipping clothing in several different liquids and substances, it allows the torn articles to knit back together.

Researchers at the university say that the coating can be applied to the threads prior to being used, and it makes garments weave back together. However, they have only used a solution called, polyelectrolyte to pre-made items so far. Pennsylvania State University, Professor Melik C. Demirel, pointed out that fashion designers use mostly natural fibers, such as silk or wool to make clothes. These materials are expensive and, of course, not self-mending.

The scientists went on to try and create their own coating technology, which led them to create the liquid solution from a yeast and bacteria mixture. It is made of positively and negatively charged polymers, similar to the proteins in human hair and nails. The same proteins are also found in squid teeth rings.

How Does It Work?

Penn State scientists say, although they dip the entire article into the solution, it can also be added to a single spot on the clothing. The consumer can search for a rip or tear in their clothing and dab a few drops of the liquid onto the cloth around the tear. Then, add warm water and hold it together. After a few moments, the material should begin to mend itself.

Demirel and his colleagues noted that during the layering process, enzymes can incorporate in the coating. The team currently used urease, which is an enzyme that breaks urea into carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia. For commercial purposes, the solution could be adjusted with enzymes that are the same as the material or chemical.

Furthermore, Demirel stated that for enzymes with a biological or chemical effect they can use a concentrated enzyme with the self-repairing properties. This will degrade the toxins before they reach the skin.

The human skin absorbs an abundance of toxic substances while working in certain fields. For instance, farmers are often exposed to herbicides and organophosphates, which are also used in nerve agents. If they absorb into the skin, they are harmful, if not potentially fatal.

Researchers say that this can be prevented with self-healing clothing. The fabric that has been dipped in the solution, which contains organophosphate hydrolase, will break down the toxic enzymes, therefore, limiting the exposure to harmful substances. Demirel told Penn News:

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.

There is no need to wonder whether the mended clothing will survive the washing machine. The polymer from the squid teeth ring heals itself in water. Therefore, it repairs any defects on the clothing while it is wet.

As reported in The Christian Science Mentor, researchers and clothing manufacturers, who have worked with textiles and technology, are more abundant than in the past few years. Toyota has joined the wearable tech force as well, with their announcement in March 2016, of Project BLAID. The project helps visually impaired people use cameras and speakers to navigate their surroundings. The equipment rests on the person’s shoulders embedded inside a wearable.

Osamu “Simon” Nagata, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Toyota Motor North America, Inc., stated that they want everyone to have the freedom of mobility. That getting around will be more than just about cars. He went on to state that the person’s circumstances, location, or ability should not matter.

This revolutionary idea seems like something out of the future, almost like it is too good to be true, however, it is genuine and just a snippet of the wave of possible things to come.

By Tracy Blake
Edited by Jeanette Smith


ACS Publications: Self-Healing Textile: Enzyme Encapsulated Layer-by-Layer Structural Proteins
The Christian Science MONITOR: Penn State researchers create self-mending clothing (+video)
TECH TIMES:Torn Clothes No More? Self-Healing Fabric May Be The Future Of Clothing

Image Courtesy of Steve Calcott’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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