One of the biggest and most lucrative industries in the world is fashion. Fashion has grown over time and with it, so have textiles. Fashion is a universal language with no right or wrong. It allows designers and consumers to expose their personalities through their clothing and style.
New Robotic fabric responds to temperature changes, will this be the future of fashion?
Fashion creates communities of people, and some fashion needs are much more practical than others. For example, when getting ready to go skiing, many will consider taking warm clothing and specific skiing gear which works in different ways to keep the body warm at high temperatures. Concerning working out and gyming, users need clothing made of fabrics which are breathable for the skin.
With this in mind, researchers at Yale University have developed a robotic fabric which has the potential to lead the way for adaptive clothing as well as lightweight shape-changing machinery and self-deploying shelters, the uses for innovation such as this are endless.
The lab at Yale has created a robotic fabric that includes features such as sensing, actuation, and variable stiffness fibres which together compose of qualities that make fabrics like this useful whilst being lightweight, breathable, and flexible.
The robotic fabric can move from a piece of flat, ordinary fabric to a standing structure that has the ability to hold a load of weight. The researchers at the lab focused on processing functional materials into fibre-form. This allows them to be integrated into fabrics whilst still retaining properties that allow them to function and behave as normal materials would.
An example of this is how they made variable stiffness fibres out of epoxy which they embedded with particles of an alloy that has the ability to liquefy at low temperatures. The metal is known as Feild’s metal. When the particles of this metal cool, they behave like solid metal and can keep their shape and stiffness, when warm, the particles behave like a liquid, making the material softer and more pliable.
The metal has the capability of becoming as flexible as latex and as stiff as acrylic. The nature of it also makes it 1,000 times more rigid just by chain the composition of the metal through the heating and cooling process. The fabric can be used to help support clothing with a changing need. The support fibres can be used in the army, for example as the fibre can be bent or twisted and locked into shape with the ability to hold loads which traditional fabrics would be unable to hold.
For the metal to work and respond effectively to outside temperature and change as and when needed, the research also developed ink which creates sensors for the metal to detect the temperature form. This ink can also be painted directly onto the fabric. Using the ink means there is no need to change the composition of the fabric.
To help and make the fabric move more naturally, the researchers used shape-memory alloy (SMA). SMA is a wire which can return to a programmed shape after being deformed or moulded into other shapes.
The coils were flattened into ribbons in the fabric, making them more suited to the bending motion it’s needed for. The project was funded by the Air Force Office of Science research and could potentially be applied to aiding AF pilots.
New innovative innovations like this pave the way and open the doors a better tomorrow. This has not been the first time we have seen attempts at technology like this, nor will it be the last. There may even be a big potential for the material to be used via our SmartPhone Checker smart devices, such as using it for medical equipment to help back pain. Allowing users to heat and unheat the alloys quickly to be able to use it in responsive situations such as medical emergencies.
Considering its adaptability and use in the real world means that not only is there a need and want for a product like this, moving forward, but we also have an increased amount of situations which will require this type of forward-thinking tech that can help change our futures. As climate change is real, and our earth’s atmosphere continues to rise, it will create many factors for consumers. Tech like this could help generate new ideas to tackle clothing in a climate that is changing rapidly.