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Electric textile lights a lamp when stretched

Working up a sweat from carrying a heavy load? That is when the textile works at its best. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have developed a fabric that converts kinetic energy into electric power, in cooperation with the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås and the research institute Swerea IVF. The greater the load applied to the textile and the wetter it becomes the more electricity it generates. The results are now published in the Nature Partner journal Flexible Electronics.

Chalmers researchers Anja Lund and Christian Müller have developed a woven fabric that generates electricity when it is stretched or exposed to pressure. The fabric can currently generate enough power to light an LED, send wireless signals or drive small electric units such as a pocket calculator or a digital watch.

The technology is based on the piezoelectric effect, which results in the generation of electricity from deformation of a piezoelectric material, such as when it is stretched. In the study the researchers created a textile by weaving a piezoelectric yarn together with an electrically conducting yarn, which is required to transport the generated electric current.

“The textile is flexible and soft and becomes even more efficient when moist or wet,” Lund says. “To demonstrate the results from our research we use a piece of the textile in the shoulder strap of a bag. The heavier the weight packed in the bag and the more of the bag that consists of our fabric, the more electric power we obtain. When our bag is loaded with 3 kilos of books, we produce a continuous output of 4 microwatts. That’s enough to intermittently light an LED. By making an entire bag from our textile, we could get enough energy to transmit wireless signals.”

The textile consists of piezoelectric yarns woven together with electrically conducting yarns. A piezoelectric yarn is made up of 24 fibres each as thin as a strand of hair, with each fibre having an electrically conducting core surrounded by an insulating and piezoelectric polymer. During manufacture the fabric is exposed to a high electric field, which causes positive and negative charges in the polymer to be separated in an orderly manner. When the textile is then stretched or exposed to pressure, the deformation of the fibres causes a reorganisation of the charge distribution, thus generating an electrical voltage. The electrically conducting yarn is required to form a closed circuit through which an electric current can flow.

Fungi-based, biodegradable fashion for better environment

Two University of Delaware students put their best foot forward at this year’s National Sustainable Design Expo, showing off a biodegradable shoe they fashioned using mushrooms, chicken feathers and textile waste. Jillian Silverman and Wing Tang, both in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, created a bio-composite material – renewable and sourced sustainably from common regional products – that forms the sole of their prototype shoe.

“The fashion industry produces a lot of waste, so sustainability is an issue everyone is trying to address,” Silverman said. “It’s hard to believe that people are going to change their consumption habits, but with this shoe, when someone gets tired of it or it wears out, it can go into the compost pile and not the landfill.”

The project began in 2015, when Silverman conducted research as an undergraduate Summer Scholar, working with Kelly Cobb, assistant professor of fashion and apparel studies. They were looking for ways to make fabric from mushroom mycelium, the interlocking root system from which the part of the mushroom that we eat on our pizza grows. The exploratory summer project was less than successful, but when Silverman began work on her master’s degree, she said, “I just kept thinking about it. I couldn’t get mushrooms out of my head.”

The researchers experimented with growing different species of mushrooms and using different materials, known as substrates, in which the mycelium forms its network of roots. They grew numerous samples, dried them and tested them for potential use as the sole of a shoe. The nutrients in which the samples grew included chicken feathers and a textile waste product that’s most often used as a packing material. The team hopes to experiment in the future with discarded natural-fiber clothing, perhaps shredding it to create a fluffy addition to the feathers as a growth medium.

Once the mycelium samples grown by the research team were tested and analyzed for the best species and composition, work began on a prototype shoe. Mycelium was grown in a soft mold in the shape of a sole – “No waste from cutting it into that shape,” said Cao — and the team settled on a type of vegan “leather” to cover the sole and make it more durable. Tang then designed and made the top of the shoe, using discarded scraps from the muslin fabric that apparel design students use in the clothing they create. She used a sewing technique called smocking, in which she gathered the fabric to give it bulk and shape.

“The University of Delaware research combines the sustainability strategies of local production and the use of bio-based renewable resources to solve environmental problems related to the apparel and footwear industries,” Environmental Protection Agency said.

Market report: cotton production in 2018

Global cotton production in 2017/18 is forecast at 122.2 million bales, 14% above last season and the largest production in five years, according to the latest report by US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to the latest report, world harvested area in 2017/18 is estimated at 33.3 million hectares, 12% above 2016/17—as returns from cotton were more favourable and encouraged cotton plantings over alternative crops. The global yield is forecast to rise to 799 kg per hectare in 2017/18, the highest in four years and the second highest on record.

All major cotton producers are projected to harvest a larger crop in 2017/18, with increases for China and the US leading the gain. In 2017/18, the top three producing countries – India, China, and the US – are projected to account for 63% of the global cotton crop, similar to the previous season. India’s production is forecast at 28.5 million bales, about 6% above last season. For Brazil, cotton production is expected to reach 8.7 million bales in 2017/18, compared with 7 million last season.

Global consumption

World cotton consumption in 2017/18 is projected at 120.4 million bales, 5% above 2016/17. Although cotton mill use has been rising relatively steadily for the past six seasons, an expanding global economy and the slowdown in polyester production contributed to this year’s above-average growth. Despite the highest cotton consumption in a decade, 2017/18 world production is expected to exceed consumption for the first time in three years.

China, the leading spinner of raw cotton, is projected to use 40 million bales of cotton in 2017/18. China accounts for one-third of the global cotton mill use total. In addition, cotton yarn imports by China could include an additional 8 million bale-equivalents of raw fibre to support its growing textiles and apparel industry.

Small consumption gains in 2017/18 are seen for both India and Pakistan, where mill use is projected at 24.2 million bales and 10.4 million bales, respectively. Larger increases, however, are expected in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Turkey.

World cotton trade

World cotton trade is projected at 39.1 million bales in 2017/18, 4% above the previous season and the largest in four years. Higher trade is primarily driven by increased import demand from countries that process raw cotton into textile and apparel products. In 2017/18, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and China are forecast as the leading cotton importers, although all major importing countries are expected to show increases this season.

With cotton exports by the US slightly above a year ago, 2017/18 gains are primarily noted by higher shipments from Brazil and Australia – a result of their larger high-quality supplies – as reductions are forecast for the other major exporters.

Noise-blocking curtains from Empa

Researchers at Empa, in cooperation with textile designer Annette Douglas and silk weavers Weisbrod-Zürrer AG, have developed lightweight, translucent curtain materials, which are excellent at absorbing sound. This is a combination that has been lacking until now in modern interior design. And the new “noise-quenching” curtains have just gone onto the market.

Noise is annoying. It interrupts communication, reduces productivity and tires people out – in extreme cases it can even make them ill. Sound absorbing surfaces are therefore needed in rooms where people work, talk to each other or are trying to relax. These decrease reverberation and so make rooms quieter. However so called acoustically “hard” materials such as glass and concrete, which are commonly used in interior design, scarcely absorb sound at all. Heavy curtains made of material such as velvet are often used to absorb sound. On the other hand, lightweight and transparent curtains are acoustically almost useless. At least they were until now.

Together with industrial partner Weisbrod-Zürrer AG, a silk weaving company, and the textile designer Annette Douglas, Empa researchers have developed a new curtain fabric that is lightweight but still absorbs sound.

“Acousticians are pretty astonished when they see the readings we are achieving with the new curtains in the reverberation room. The weighted sound absorption coefficient is between 0.5 and 0.6,” commented Kurt Eggenschwiler, Head of Empa’s “Acoustics/Noise Control” Division. In other words, the new textiles “quench” five times more sound than conventional translucent curtains. Eggenschwiler continued: “The new curtain genuinely absorbs sound, noticeably improving the room acoustics – and its design is also very high quality.”

Another advantage is that because the new curtains are translucent, they can be used in a variety of places such as offices, living rooms, restaurants, hotel lobbies, seminar rooms and even multi-purpose auditoriums. They are often the deciding factor in satisfying the acoustic requirements and regulations that apply to these rooms. Just shortly after their launch it became apparent that the new textiles are really filling a gap in the market, as interest in them is “massive” according to Eggenschwiler.

The idea of a curtain that absorbs noise while, at the same time, being lightweight and translucent, came from the textile designer Annette Douglas, who has worked with the interaction between sound and textiles for many years and received the Swiss Textile Design Award in 2005 for the project “Acoustic walls for open plan offices.” In cooperation with researchers from Empa’s “Acoustics/Noise Control” Division and silk weavers Weisbrod Zürrer AG, and with support from researchers from Empa’s “Advanced Fibres” Division, she submitted an associated project to the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) in 2010. Not a simple task, because thin and, therefore, translucent fabrics are normally poor sound absorbers.

The first acoustically optimised lightweight textile came into being on a computer. The Empa acousticians wanted to use the characteristics of this virtual textile in order to prepare a kind of “recipe” for material experts, which would enable them to specifically manufacture a fabric that could absorb sound. In addition, they first developed a mathematical model to illustrate both the microscopic structure of the fabric as well as its macroscopic composition. On the basis of numerous acoustic measurements made on various samples, specifically woven by Weisbrod-Zürrer, they were able to gradually optimise the acoustic properties of the fabric. Annette Douglas then succeeded in translating the new findings into weaving techniques. She chose yarns that gave the materials the necessary characteristics in terms of flammability and translucence and determined the weave structure, i.e. how the threads should be woven in and out of each other. Weisbrod-Zürrer then adjusted the sophisticated manufacturing process so that the industrially-made curtains actually displayed the required acoustic characteristics.

Researchers improve textile composite manufacturing

While wearing a crisply ironed, wrinkle-free shirt makes a good impression, researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus are working to solve the issue of wrinkling when it comes to making textile composites.

Textile composites are known for their strength and durability. But as Abbas Milani, a professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering explains, a simple wrinkle in the manufacturing process can significantly alter the end product — sometimes diminishing its strength by 50 per cent.

Milani says wrinkling is one of the most common flaws in textile composites, which are widely used for prototypes, as well as mass production within prominent aerospace, energy, automotive and marine applications.

To iron out the problem, researchers at UBC’s Composite Research Network-Okanagan have investigated several de-wrinkling methods and have discovered that they can improve their effectiveness by pulling the materials in two directions simultaneously during the manufacturing process. They did this by creating a custom-made biaxial fixture – a clamp that stretches the textile taught and removes unwanted bumps and folds.

“The challenge was to avoid unwanted fibre misalignment or fibre rupture while capturing the out-of-plane wrinkles,” says graduate student Armin Rashidi. “Manufacturers who use these types of composites are looking for more information about their mechanical behaviour, especially under combined loading scenarios.”

The research included stretching the material and then using specialized image processing and 3D scanning to analyze the required forces and its impact on the wrinkling and de-wrinkling of the material.

“Composite textiles are changing the way products are designed and built in advanced manufacturing sectors,” says Milani, director of the Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute. “As we continue to innovate in the area of composite textiles to include more polymer resin and fibre reinforcement options, this research will need to continue in order to provide the most up-to-date analysis for manufacturers in different application areas.”

It is important for designers to be able to predict the right amount of force needed to diminish the wrinkles in the final product, explains Milani. To do this, his team of students has created a multi-step test to assess the magnitude of the required forces needed to smooth out wrinkles of different sizes that were formed at different shear angles of a comingled fibreglass-propylene plain weave fabric.

“Students in the Composites Research Network laboratory at UBC Okanagan are laying the groundwork to be world leaders in advanced textile composites by designing, fabricating and examining new testing equipment and fixtures, along with the development of high fidelity forming models.”

Techtextil Moscow – the biggest textile trade in Europe!

20-23 March 2018 IEC “Expocentre” hosted the 10th anniversary international trade fair Techtextil Russia 2018. For the third time the event was held within the frameworks of Russian Textile Week

The trade fair statistics have shown the significant growth of visitors:  Techtextil Russia together with Inlegmash attracted 7 837 unique specialists from 47 countries.

In his welcoming speech at the opening ceremony Michael Jänecke, Director Brand Management Technical Textiles & Textile Processing at Messe Frankfurt, underlined, that “the international exposition of Techtextil Russia demonstrated a growth of 37% this year, which is a sign for further project extension and industry development. The trade fair is a perfect chance for international partners to see and objectively review the real market conditions in Russia”.

Techtextil Russia 2018 brought together 166 companies from 18 countries, i.e. Belgium, Germany, India, Poland, Turkey, amongst others and of course, Russia. The internationality of the event demonstrates the high status of the exhibition and its international recognition. In 2018, the exposition was highlighted with national pavilions of Germany, China, Italy, a European Pavilion, and a joint booth of Czech companies.

The most prominent technical textile innovations were demonstrated by foreign market leaders such as Akatek (Turkey), Dakota Coatings (Belgium), Birla Cellulose (India), Fiab (Poland), JR Corporation (South Korea), and many others. Traditionally, significant exposition part was covered by Russian producers, and acknowledged industry leaders, such as Aleko-Polymery, Coats, Gazprom Khimvolokno, Ivanovoiskozh, YKK, Yuman, Z-tex.

The National Pavilion of Italy, for the first time, was organized by the ICE Agency – the Trade Exchange Department in the Italian Embassy, with the assistance of ACIMIT – the Italian Association of Textile Equipment Manufacturers. Pavilion participants demonstrated their best production and up-to-date services. The Italian exposition really became one of Techtextil Russia 2018 highlights and attracted lots of visitors. The successful work of the Italian pavilion was also noted by Pasquale Q. Terracciano, Ambassador of Italy to Russia during his visiting the exposition.

Fringe program is traditionally an essential part of every Techtextil Russia show. This year, the organizers have developed an individual schedule giving its participants the platform for meeting and discussing market news, tendencies and development prospects, as well as innovations in technical textiles and nonwoven materials in different application areas.

On March 20th, Techtextil Russia became the platform for a Round table on “Technical textiles in Russia: Driving a two-way street” organized by Messe Frankfurt RUS and supported by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The event was opened with a welcoming speech by Michael Jänecke, Director Brand Management Technical Textiles & Textile Processing, Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH; Evgeny Ryzhov, Director, Department of Internal Trade, Light Industry and Consumer Market Development, Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation; Andrey Razbrodin, President of the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs of Textile and Industry. The subjects covered within the frameworks of the event are more than pressing now – “Mechanisms of development for textile production export” and “Import and Localization”. The event welcomed a number of professional speakers, i.e. Russian Export Center, Head of External Communications, Vera Podguzova, Industrial Development Fund, Industrial Policy Department, Timur Tsupikov, Industrial Parks Association, Mikhail Pazdnikov, amongst others.

Techtextil Russia is a specialized event for professional audience, always providing new prospects and opportunities for business development. The show is a forerunner when it comes to new formats to exchange ideas.  One of the examples is the Panel discussion: “Technical innovations and smart materials in fashion industry”, hosted by Techtextil Russia and supported by the Russian Fashion Council, on March 22nd. The event was moderated by Andrei Deyneko, Russian Fashion Council, Head of Research and Development. The program, apart from an exclusive range of speakers’ presentations, was contributed by the show of Snezhana Paderina, designer and winner of Fashion Futurum Accelerator 2017. Snezhana presented her collection with 3D printed elements made of biodegradable plastics.

We are pleased to announce that the next edition of Techtextil Russia will be held from 19 to 22 March 2019 in IEC “Expocentre”. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Harnessing friction gives soft robots new capabilities

Even octopuses understand the importance of elbows. When these squishy, loose-limbed cephalopods need to make a precise movement — such as guiding food into their mouth — the muscles in their tentacles contract to create a temporary revolute joint. These joints limit the wobbliness of the arm, enabling more controlled movements.

Now, researchers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have shown how a multi-layered structure can allow robots to mimic the octopus’ kinematics, creating and eliminating joints on command. The structure can also allow robots to rapidly change their stiffness, damping, and dynamics.

“This research helps bridge the gap between soft robotics and traditional rigid robotics,” said Yashraj Narang, first author of both studies and graduate student at SEAS. “We believe that this class of technology may foster a new generation of machines and structures that cannot simply be classified as soft or rigid.”

The structure is surprisingly simple, consisting of multiple layers of flexible material wrapped in a plastic envelope and connected to a vacuum source. When the vacuum is off, the structure behaves exactly as you would expect, bending, twisting and flopping without holding shape. But when a vacuum is applied, it becomes stiff and can hold arbitrary shapes, and it can be molded into additional forms. This transition is the result of a phenomenon called laminar jamming, in which the application of pressure creates friction that strongly couples a group of flexible materials.

They built real-world devices using the structures, including a two-fingered gripper that, without a vacuum, could wrap around and hold onto large objects and, with a vacuum, could pinch and hold onto small objects about the size of a marble. The researchers also demonstrated the structure’s capabilities as shock absorbers by attaching them to a drone as a landing gear. The team tuned the stiffness and damping of the structures to absorb the impact of landing.

The structure is a proof-of-concept that could have many applications in the future, from surgical robots to wearable devices and flexible speakers.

How to make one of the most complex materials functional?

For the first time, biomedical engineers have woven a ‘smart’ fabric that mimics the sophisticated and complex properties of one nature’s ingenious materials, the bone tissue periosteum. Having achieved proof of concept, the researchers are now ready to produce fabric prototypes for a range of advanced functional materials that could transform the medical, safety and transport sectors.

Having achieved proof of concept, the researchers are now ready to produce fabric prototypes for a range of advanced functional materials that could transform the medical, safety and transport sectors. Patents for the innovation are pending in Australia, the United States and Europe.

Potential future applications range from protective suits that stiffen under high impact for skiers, racing-car drivers and astronauts, through to ‘intelligent’ compression bandages for deep-vein thrombosis that respond to the wearer’s movement and safer steel-belt radial tyres.

Many animal and plant tissues exhibit ‘smart’ and adaptive properties. One such material is the periosteum, a soft tissue sleeve that envelops most bony surfaces in the body. The complex arrangement of collagen, elastin and other structural proteins gives periosteum amazing resilience and provides bones with added strength under high impact loads.

“The result is a series of textile swatch prototypes that mimic periosteum’s smart stress-strain properties. We have also demonstrated the feasibility of using this technique to test other fibres to produce a whole range of new textiles,” Professor Knothe Tate said. In order to understand the functional capacity of the periosteum, the team used an incredibly high fidelity imaging system to investigate and map its architecture.

“We then tested the feasibility of rendering periosteum’s natural tissue weaves using computer-aided design software,” Professor Knothe Tate said. The computer modelling allowed the researchers to scale up nature’s architectural patterns to weave periosteum-inspired, multidimensional fabrics using a state-of-the-art computer-controlled jacquard loom. The loom is known as the original rudimentary computer, first unveiled in 1801.

“Our longer term goal is to weave biological tissues – essentially human body parts – in the lab to replace and repair our failing joints that reflect the biology, architecture and mechanical properties of the periosteum,” Ms Ng said.

The technology that makes textiles germ-free

A University of Georgia researcher has invented a new technology that can inexpensively render medical linens and clothing, face masks, paper towels – and yes, even diapers, intimate apparel and athletic wear, including smelly socks – permanently germ-free.

The simple and inexpensive anti-microbial technology works on natural and synthetic materials. The technology can be applied during the manufacturing process or at home, and it doesn’t come out in the wash. Unlike other anti-microbial technologies, repeated applications are unnecessary to maintain effectiveness.

“The spread of pathogens on textiles and plastics is a growing concern, especially in healthcare facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home,” said Jason Locklin, the inventor, who is an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and on the Faculty of Engineering.

The anti-microbial treatment invented by Locklin, which is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., effectively kills a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains and produce odors.

“Similar technologies are limited by cost of materials, use of noxious chemicals in the application or loss of effectiveness after a few washings,” said Gennaro Gama, UGARF senior technology manager. “Locklin’s technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry.”

Gama said the technology is simple to apply in the manufacturing of fibers, fabrics, filters and plastics. It also can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, and textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

Locklin said the antimicrobial was tested against many of the pathogens common in healthcare settings, including staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas and acetinobacter. After just a single application, no bacterial growth was observed on the textile samples added to the culture – even after 24 hours at 37 degrees Celsius.

Thin films of the new technology also can be used to change other surface properties of both cellulos e- and polymer  -based materials. “It can change a material’s optical properties – color, reflectance, absorbance and iridescence – and make it repel liquids, all without changing other properties of the material,” said Gama.

Smart underwear prevents back stress with just a tap

TV infomercials offer a world of potential solutions for back pain, but most of them have at least one of three problems – they’re unproven, unworkable or just plain unattractive.

A team of Vanderbilt University engineers is changing that with a design that combines the science of biomechanics and advances in wearable tech to create a smart, mechanized undergarment.

Over half of all adults will experience low back pain in their lifetimes, and the condition is estimated to cost $30 billion in medical expenses and more than $100 billion in lost productivity in the U.S. annually. Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and the principal investigator on the project, experienced back pain himself repeatedly lifting his toddler son, which he said got him thinking about wearable tech solutions.

“I’m sick of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne being the only ones with performance-boosting supersuits. We, the masses, want our own,” Zelik said. “The difference is that I’m not fighting crime. I’m fighting the odds that I’ll strain my back this week trying to lift my 2-year-old.”

The team’s testing proves that the smart clothing offloads stress on the low back.

The device consists of two fabric sections, made of nylon canvas, Lycra, polyester and other materials, for the chest and legs. The sections are connected by sturdy straps across the middle back, with natural rubber pieces at the lower back and glutes.

The device is designed so that users engage it only when they need it. A simple double tap to the shirt engages the straps. When the task is done, another double tap releases the straps so the user can sit down, and the device feels and behaves like normal clothes. The device also can be controlled by an app that the team created — users tap their phones to engage the smart clothing wirelessly via Bluetooth.

Dr. Aaron Yang, who specializes in nonsurgical treatment of the back and neck at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is a co-investigator. He stresses the focus of this new technology is not for treating those with existing back pain but focuses on prevention by reducing stress and fatigue on the low back muscles.

He has seen many back belts and braces and typically meets them with skepticism.

“People are often trying to capitalize on a huge societal problem with devices that are unproven or unviable,” he said. “This smart clothing concept is different. I see a lot of health care workers or other professionals with jobs that require standing or leaning for long periods. Smart clothing may help offload some of those forces and reduce muscle fatigue.”