In their first attempt, a team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University has developed a new clothing that heals itself following a tear. These self-healing clothing would never make you pull out a sewing needle in case of such tearing.
The researchers’ team led by Dr. Melik C. Demirel dipped the fabric in a few special liquid to make it knit back and self-mend after it’s teared in any unfortunate incidents. They have developed a new tech called polyelectrolyte coating that would do the task for any conventional textiles.
This would be a good news for all parents out there, as well as people who work in harsh environments and factories where they used to find themselves in this situation.
The lead researcher Dr. Damiel said in a press release:
“For the first time we are making self-healing textiles. Fashion designers use natural fibers made of proteins like wool or silk that are expensive and they are not self-healing. We were looking for a way to make fabrics heal itself using conventional textiles. So we came up with this coating technology.”
The polyelectrolyte coating created by researchers from a bacteria and yeast mixture which are made up of negatively and positively charged polymers. The similar mixture can be naturally found in the proteins found in human hairs, nails and squid tentacles (teeth rings). The researchers replicated the unique property found in Squid teeth ring protein using biotechnology and other substances.
Even though they have applied the special liquid coating to the already woven clothes, researchers mentioned that this liquid can be applied to only torn spots and textile industry could also use this liquid on threads used to create fabric before producing garments. The coating isn’t noticeable for bare eyes and durable enough that garments, after applying the healing coating, will also heal as they are laundered.
According to CNN Money, if you find any tear in your clothings, you will have to dribble a few drops of this special liquid over the tear, apply warm water and hold the tears together with your hands for a moment to heal the cloth. Dr. Damiel mentioned that this is a first step in creating a self-healing fabric which mends itself without the use of any external forces, in this case its hands that holds the teared parts together. Imagine adding this liquid and torn clothes into a washing machine and taking it back in completely repaired form!
The team has even mentioned about the usage of this invention towards the protection of soldiers, farmers and medical staff. This invention could also professionals working in hazardous chemical factories as well. According to the self-healing clothing study, the polyelectrolyte coating would stop toxic substances from getting through the fabric and this property would also help soldiers to save themselves from dangerous biological attacks.
In order to achieve these effects, clothings should be covered by enzymes and that can be easily achieved, according to the author. The polyelectrolyte coating substance along with enzymes like organophosphate hydrolase (used as nerve agents) can protect the wearer from certain kind of chemicals to enter into the body.
“If you need to use enzymes for biological or chemical effects,” Demirel told Penn News, “you can have an encapsulated enzyme with self-healing properties degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin.”
The new self-healing clothing technology, if implemented in consumer products, can help reduce the global wastage of garments and it can positively influence people’s usage habits. Dr. Damiel said:
“Discarded clothing is a major global problem. Maybe this is a way to improve the longevity of clothes we wear.”
Following the boom in the research of wearable computing devices, many tech companies like Google have invested on garment researches to implement wearable technology into it. For example, Alphabet, Inc and Levi Strauss have partnered for the Jacquard Project to develop technologies to blend wearable into clothing. Toyota also announced the Project BLAID to develop and implement wearable technology to help visually impaired people to navigate easily.