With this new time and age of technological advancements, the manufacturing of smart clothes has brought about a textile revolution. This involves the integration of electronic components and Nano-technology within fabrics and fibres resulting in the birth of intelligent fabrics possessing specific properties. Smart materials are capable of ‘thinking’ and ‘acting’ by sensing the conditions of the immediate environment. These are sensitive to the wearer’s body conditions (sweating & trembling), temperature requirements & stability and their movements.
Classification of Smart Textiles:
Passive Smart Textiles- These can only sense the environment conditions or stimuli, and hence are also known as 1st Generation Smart Textiles. Active Smart Textiles-These 2nd Generation Smart Textiles have both sensors and actuators. The actuators act upon the signal or stimuli detected either directly or from a central control unit. They are chameleonic, water resistant, shape memory, vapor absorbing, heat evolving fabrics or electrically heated suits. Ultra Smart Textiles- These are the 3rd Generation very Smart Textiles which can sense, react, and adopt themselves to the environment conditions and stimuli. Applications of Smart Textile can be very interesting to know. The usage of Smart textiles range from protective wear, sports, medical and fashion to clothes having anti stress properties. Functional Textiles” are designed to serve a specific purpose having added features. Therefore, we now have fabrics that protect against U.V Radiation and anti-bacterial products. Fibres designed with moisture management systems help in quick evaporation of sweat & perspiration.
Similarly, there are Reflective Textiles used for preparing safety garments. Some interesting examples of such extraordinary Functional Textiles used today are: The jacket that can see: This technology boasts the development of GPSoverIP Jacket which has an inbuilt mobile phone, an mp3 player at the same time containing features for locating people. The person wearing this jacket can be easily located within buildings with its’ inbuilt tracking system that works just like a GPS. The Smart Bra: Developed by Wallace et al at the University of Wollongong, the Smart Bra can change its properties according to the breast movement, i.e. it can tighten, loosen the straps, stiffen or relax its’ cups to adjust the breast motion, preventing breast pain and sag. This bra is essentially useful for women who are active in sports. Fitness component inside sports underwear: This technology, again is very useful for athletes as it incorporates ‘beat clip’ i.e., a fitness component with a mobile radio connection sewn into sports underwear. It then displays on a mobile phone, the wearers’ fitness conditions such as heart rate signals.
Fabric protection against mobile phone radiation: a German engineered fabric using special yarns called ‘eBlocker’ is being incorporated into the inner pockets of jackets, which absorbs almost 100% of radiation emanating from mobile phones without affecting the functioning of the mobile phone in any way. Sensory baby vest: A team of researchers have improvised a special vest for babies .This special vest has sensors attached to it that help in constant monitoring of the baby’s’ vital organs such as heart, lungs ,skin and at the same time detects body temperature. The sensors are attached such that they, in no way, disturb the baby while it is asleep. Light Emitting: Luminex is a new fabric (non reflective) that can emit light. They are optical capable of illuminating themselves in darkened situations.
Developing Future U.S. Soldier Uniforms: DuPont in alliance with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) attempts to develop materials that would help equip the U.S. soldier of the future with uniforms and gear that keep them safe them against chemical and biological warfare. Engineers and scientists are working to develop ideas such as a uniform that is almost invisible and soft clothing that can become a rigid cast when a soldier breaks his or her leg. Fibres That Can Change Colour and Shape on Command: Smart fibres can function as conductive “wires” and react to signals from electricity, heat or pressure.
Researchers are experimenting with different fibre profiles – of various shapes — that can be made to contract or expand to loosen and tighten clothing to make the wearer warmer or cooler. For example, conductive fibres could change colour on command from an electric signal that changes the reflective quality of specially dyed fibre/cloth Emitting Scents: The Smart Second Skin Dress – emitting scents depending on your mood and requirements. One such invention is the ‘Sleep Suit’ which gives out the scent of lavender for insomniacs when they wake to calm the wearer and send them back to sleep. One can manage music and mobile phone from a control panel, with backlit digital display, located externally on your sleeve.
Fashion is moving forward…and so is technology. As computers keep getting smaller, it enables us to incorporate miniaturised hi-tech components into clothes and shoes. Textile manufacturers have to redefine ‘functionality’ and move beyond the historical focus of protection and appearance and find their way onto the high street renamed as ‘Warp Wear’, ‘Smart Clothes’ and ‘E-textiles’.