UK Researchers Create First Smart Fabric, Changes Shape, Color


Hold onto your hats because the world of clothing just got a whole lot more exciting! Researchers at the University of Waterloo in the UK have developed a new type of smart fabric that can change both its shape and color in response to stimuli. Yes, you heard that right, the fabric is intelligent!

The material is activated by both heat and electricity, making it the first-ever fabric to respond to two different stimuli.

Endless Weaving Possibilities!

The possibilities for this type of fabric are endless, including clothing that warms up as you move from the cold outdoors to the warmth indoors or even vehicle bumpers that can bounce back to their original shape after a collision.

But the fun does not stop there. The programmable fabric can also change color when activated, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for fashion designers. Imagine having a shirt that changes from blue to green as you dance the night away at a party. Or a jacket that changes from red to yellow as the temperature rises outside.

“As a wearable material alone, it has almost infinite potential in AI, robotics, and virtual reality games and experiences,” said Dr. Milad Kamkar, a chemical engineering professor at Waterloo.

“Imagine feeling warmth or a physical trigger eliciting a more in-depth adventure in the virtual world.”

This material is made from a combination of highly engineered polymer composites and stainless steel, resulting in a fabric that is both soft and hard.

To create the fabric, the team of researchers utilized a device that resembles a conventional loom. This device not only offers exceptional versatility but also allows for the freedom to design and macro-scale control over the properties of the fabric.

And here’s the best part: this smart fabric is made from recycled plastic. That’s right, you can look stylish while also helping the environment. It’s a win-win!

Read Also: Butterfly Inspired: The World’s Lightest Paint Offers Eco-Friendly Alternative to Pigment-Based Paint

Cost-effective, Energy-efficient

But the potential of this smart fabric goes beyond just fashion. Compared to earlier systems, the fabric has the advantage of being activated by a lower voltage of electricity, making it more cost-effective and energy-efficient.

As a result, it can be used in a range of applications, including biomedical devices and environmental sensors, among others, according to the team.

“The idea of these intelligent materials was first bred and born from biomimicry science,” said Kamkar, director of the Multi-scale Materials Design (MMD) Centre at Waterloo. “Through the ability to sense and react to environmental stimuli such as temperature, this is proof of concept that our new material can interact with the environment to monitor ecosystems without damaging them.”

The research team’s next objective is to enhance the fabric’s shape-memory performance, particularly for robotics applications. Imagine a robot that can effectively carry and transfer weight to complete tasks. This smart fabric could make it possible.

The study titled “Multi-Stimuli Dually-Responsive Intelligent Woven Structures with Local Programmability for Biomimetic Applications” was published in the journal Nano-Micro Small.

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