Wearable Charging StationCredit: Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory/Cornell University. Abbey Liebman, a design student at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., created a dress made with conductive cotton that can charge an iPhone via solar panels.
It’s part of a May 7, 2013 slide show put together by Denise Chow at the LiveScience website. Also shown in the slide show are Olivia Ong’s anti-bacterial clothing (featured here in an Aug. 5, 2011 posting) and some anti-malarial clothing by Matilda Ceesay (featured here in a May 15, 2012 posting). I have more details about the textiles and the work but the pictures on LiveScience are better.
As I’ve not come across LiveScience before ,my curiosity was piqued and to satisfy it, I found this on their About page,
LiveScience, launched in 2004, is the trusted and provocative source for highly accessible science, health and technology news for people who are curious about their minds, bodies, and the world around them. Our team of experienced science reporters, editors and video producers explore the latest discoveries, trends and myths, interviewing expert sources and offering up deep and broad analyses of topics that affect peoples’ lives in meaningful ways. LiveScience articles are regularly featured on the web sites of our media partners: MSNBC.com, Yahoo!, the Christian Science Monitor and others.
Most of the science on LiveScience is ‘bite-sized’ and provides information for people who are busy and/or don’t want much detail.
The Karma Chameleon project at Concordia University is an investigation into ‘smart’ clothing that goes beyond the ‘how to’ and also asks how would we feel about clothing than can transform itself without our volition. An Apr. 16, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily highlights the project and its lead researcher, Joanna Berkowska,
Joanna Berzowska, professor and chair of the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia, has developed interactive electronic fabrics that harness power directly from the human body, store that energy, and then use it to change the garments’ visual properties.
“Our goal is to create garments that can transform in complex and surprising ways — far beyond reversible jackets, or shirts that change colour in response to heat. That’s why the project is called Karma Chameleon,” says Berzowska.
The major innovation of this research project is the ability to embed these electronic or computer functions within the fibre itself: rather than being attached to the textile, the necessary electronic components are woven into these new composite fibres. The fibres consist of multiple layers of polymers, which, when stretched and drawn out to a small diameter, begin to interact with each other. The fabric, produced in collaboration with the École Polytechnique de Montréal’s Maksim Skorobogatiy, represent a significant advance in the development of “smart textiles.”
Although it’s not yet possible to manufacture clothing with the new composite fibres, Berzowska worked with fashion designers to create conceptual prototypes that can help us visualize how such clothing might look and behave. Imagine a dress that changes shape and colour on its own, or a shirt that can capture the energy from human movement and use it to charge an iPhone
According to Berzowska, it will be two to three decades before we see this clothing in the stores but in the meantime she’s also investigating the social impact (from the Concordia news release),
There would also be a performative aspect to wearing such garments, whose dramatic transformations may or may not be controlled by the wearer. This research raises interesting questions about human agency relative to fashion and computers. What would it mean to wear a piece of clothing with “a mind of its own,” that cannot be consciously controlled? How much intimate contact with computers do we really want?
Apparently, there will be a show at Montréal’s PHi Centre in either 2o13 or 2014, Unfortunately the centre does not list any events planned after June 2013.
The project title, Karma Chameleon gives me an excuse to feature Boy George’s identically titled hit song,
I’d never seen the video before and it was a revelation. Tip: Do not pickpocket jewellery or cheat at cards; Karma will get you.
Nanowerk is featuring a Dec. 21, 2012 news item about a jewellery project from the Institut Català de Nanotecnologia (ICN) Note: Links have been removed,
The Centre for NanoBioSafety and Sustainability (CNBSS) organised the premiere of Gold Light, the first quantum jewellery product, last week at the Hotel Mercer, in Barcelona [Spain]. Gold Light is the fruit of a collaboration that combines Barcelona’s long artisanal tradition with Nanotechnology developed by Institut Català de Nanotecnologia (ICN)’s Inorganic Nanoparticles Group. Gold Light is an extraordinary jewellery product, unique for both its innovation and its aesthetics.
A multidisciplinary team, including jewellery designer Roberto Carrascosa, artist Joan Peris, production designer Francesc Oliveras, and art business manager Jose Luis Fettolini, developed Gold Light over the course of a year, based on specialist knowledge from the Inorganic Nanoparticles Group. The final product exploits the aesthetic potential of noble-metal nanoparticles and their special interaction with light. Jewellers traditionally work with precious metals, which in their smallest form exist as nanoparticles(at smaller sizes, metal particles lose their metallic properties). Gold Light, composed of gold nanoparticles, represents the advent of quantum jewellery, where quantum is used in the literal sense. Their work on Gold Light has also served as a case model for the CNBSS to evaluate the regulatory mechanisms and corporate obligations for the development and marketing of a product that contains nanoparticles. For the CNBSS, the venture served as a study in the safety-by-design of a nanoproduct, through advice from attorney Ignasi Gispert.
Here’s what one of the pieces looks like,
The distinctive colours of Gold Light jewellery derive from different types of gold nanoparticles.
You can see more on the Gold Light jewellery website but you won’t find any technical information about the colour differences or information about how to purchase.
If you’re looking for an early Christmas gift and have several thousand dollars to spare, you may want to check out this Nov. 1, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,
True luxury has only one color – gold. A nanometer-thin layer of pure gold now lends ties and pocket handkerchiefs that authentic gold sheen, thanks to a new Empa-developed process. The yarn, which is coated using a high-tech plasma process, is soft and easy to weave. It is also washing machine compatible. A limited number of gold ties will be placed on the market before Christmas, making a truly exclusive present. …
Gold radiates with a violet hue, at least when it is sprayed onto a surface atom by atom, as can be seen by looking into a plasma coating plant when in operation. This particular plant, which is about as large as a household refrigerator, can be found on the premises of the Tersuisse spinning mill in Emmen. Inside the apparatus a piece of gold is bombarded with fast moving argon ions which knock atoms off the metal surface. These gold atoms fly off and land on a polyester fiber which is slowly pulled through the machine. This is the beginning of the production process which for the first time in the world creates a textile material permanently coated with a durable layer of gold. The precious metal remains attached to the fiber even when it is rolled, kinked, woven in a loom and given a final wash.
I gather they’ve decided to market this product to men, although Catholic school girls also wear ties, so they could be considered a secondary market. There are also plans to bring this nano gold-coated textile to haute couture,
There is little chance that these exclusive gold ties will become mass produced fashion accessories in the near future – even at full capacity production is limited to a maximum of 600 pieces annually for the world market. In actual fact it is certain that far fewer will actually be produced, since a part of the gold coated thread which is produced is reserved for other project partners. The Jakob Schlaepfer company, embroiderers and manufacturers of decorative textiles, will also use the gold yarn for items in its Winter 2012/13 Haute Couture collection.
For those already opening their cheque books or signing in to Paypal, the cost of a tie is 7500 Swiss francs (roughly $8600 CAD).
Fiber scientist Juan Hinestroza has been making the media rounds lately about nanotechnology-enabled textiles/clothing. From the August 2, 2011 article by Jill Colvin for DNAinfo.com,
Imagine clothes that change color with the press of a button, charge your cell phone, clean the air, kill bacteria and repel stains so they never have to be washed again.
That’s the mission of Cornell University fiber science pioneer Juan Hinestroza, who’s leading the revolution to bring high-end function to high-end fashion in Manhattan.
Presenting his findings to a small group of reporters at Cornell’s ILR Conference Center in Midtown Tuesday, Hinestroza said that in less than a decade, he expects nanotechnology to be commonplace in the clothing industry.
It’s interesting to see this as I first came across Hinestroza’s work in 2007 when I was developing my Nanotech Mysteries wiki page, Scientists get fashionable.
copyright 2007 Cornell University) Design student Olivia Ong ’07 with garments, treated with metallic nanoparticles through a collaboration with fiber scientists, Juan Hinestroza and Hong Dong, that she designed for ‘Gliteratti’ collection.
(For permission to copy and use the image please contact, The Cornell Chronicle media office here: firstname.lastname@example.org or 607.254.6236.)
The fabric you see in the image cost, in 2007, $10,000 per square meter. I wonder what it would cost today?
There’s a great video on the RIA Novosti website featuring interviews about an art/science collaboration between Professor Helen Storey at the London College of Fashion and Professor Tony Ryan, a scientist at the University of Sheffield. The two have created clothing that cleans the air of pollution. From the University of Sheffield June 15, 2011 news release,
Catalytic Clothing is a radical partnership between the University of Sheffield and London College of Fashion University of the Arts London that brings together the worlds of fashion and chemistry with the potential to clean the air we breathe. Employing existing technology in a new way, it seeks to explore how clothing and textiles can be used as a catalytic surface to purify air. It is the brainchild of artist/designer Professor Helen Storey MBE and chemist Professor Tony Ryan OBE – people from two very differing worlds who are using their diametric approaches to achieve great things. Previous projects include the groundbreaking Wonderland project which has now been seen by over 11 million people worldwide.
An exclusive film starring Erin O’Connor with soundtrack by Radiohead is already going viral with millions of views.
For those interested in the science part of the Catalytic Clothing story (from the Catalytic Clothing website, Scientific Background/FAQS page),
What is the science behind Catalytic Clothing?
Catalytic Clothing harnesses the power of a photocatalyst to break down air borne pollutants. A catalyst is a term used to describe something that makes a reaction proceed at a greater rate but isn’t actually consumed during that reaction. A photocatalyst gains the energy it needs to be active from light.
Where do the pollutants come from?
The two biggest sources of air borne pollutants are industry and motor vehicles. Although the majority of the pollutants are prevented from reaching the air, using technology such as catalytic converters, some do escape. It is these pollutants that Catalytic Clothing will break down.
How are the pollutants broken down?
When the light shines on the photocatalyst, the electrons in the material are rearranged and they become more reactive. These electrons are then able to react with the water in the air and break it apart into 2 radicals. A radical is an extremely reactive molecule. These radicals then react with the pollutants and cause them to break down into non-harmful chemicals.
What happens to the pollutants after they’ve been broken down?
The Catalytic Clothing technology is designed to breakdown the pollutants straight away. However, some pollutants may become attached without being broken down. In this case, the pollutants will be washed off during subsequent laundering. This actually already happens with normal clothing.
Is this technology used in any other products?
Photocatalysts have been incorporated into several commercially available products that possess de-polluting properties. These products include paints, cements and paving stones. [Note 1: In the RIA Novosti video, Ryan mentions titanium dioxide specifically. Note 2: Coatings for pavements in Germany are mentioned in my August 2, 2010 posting; scroll down 1/2 way.]
How is the technology delivered to the surface of the clothing?
The photocatalyst is delivered to the surface of the clothing during the traditional laundry procedure as an additive within a standard product such as a fabric conditioner. The active agent is packaged within a shell that is attracted towards, and subsequently binds to, the surface of the clothing during the washing cycle.
Why do we need mass participation to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution?
Although any garment that is treated with the product becomes active, a single garment is only able to remove a small proportion of the air borne pollutants. Therefore, a large number of individuals, all acting together, is required to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution.
How many people would need to participate to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution?
An estimate of the required level of uptake for the Catalytic Clothing indicates that a significant reduction in the level of air borne pollutants in a large city such as London could be achieved if, for every metre of pavement width, 30 people wearing Catalytic Clothes walked past each minute.
Would someone wearing Catalytic Clothing be at a greater risk of exposure to pollutants?
No. The Catalytic Clothing technology won’t actively attract any pollutants. Instead, it will break down anything that comes within very close proximity of the photocatalyst’s surface.
How would society benefit if Catalytic Clothing was widely introduced?
Exposure to air borne pollutants presents a risk to human health and also has a detrimental effect on ecosystems and vegetation. Air pollution is currently estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months. The widespread introduction of Catalytic Clothing would dramatically reduce the level of air borne pollutants, thereby improving the quality of life for all members of society.
The main sponsor for the project is Ecover (from the news release),
Ecover, who are the main sponsors of the Catalytic Clothing cultural campaign, are one of the world´s leading suppliers of green and sustainable cleaning products. All of their products are made with fully renewable plant-based ingredients and produced using a totally biochemical process. Ecover has been recognised by the United Nations Environment programme (UNEP) for their outstanding practical achievements for the protection and improvement of our environment.
There’s another way of looking at the robot situation. Instead of making machines more like people, why not make people more like machines? That seems to be the subtext when you read about human enhancement and, like yesterday’s discussion about robots, you find yourself talking to a transhumanist or two.
Tracy Picha writing in Flare magazine’s August 2009 issue (The Future of Our Body) starts her article with an anecdote about Aimee Mullins, a record-breaking paralympian (and double amputee), wearing prosthetic legs to an event that boosted her standard height from 5’8″ to 6’1″.
As the story goes, Mullins reconnected with an old friend who had known her only at her shorter height. “Her mouth dropped when she saw me,” recalls Mullins, “and she said, ‘But you’re so tall!’”
“I know, isn’t it fun?” was Mullins’ reply.
“But, Aimee, that’s not fair.”
Picha finishes off the anecdote after a discussion of augmentation and enhancement that includes the story of a guy in Finland needing a prosthetic to replace part of a severed finger and choosing one that has a USB port in its tip. She goes on to discuss a subculture of people who embed magnetic chips into their bodies so they can sense magnetic and electromagnetic fields thereby giving themselves a sixth sense. There’s also a discussion with a transhumanist and a contrasting view from Susie Orbach, author of Bodies. Orbach has this to say,
… the body has become a casing for fantasy rather than a place from which to live.
It’s all becoming a metaphysical question. What is it to be human? I have misgivings about all this talk about enhancement and, as mentioned yesterday, improving the human genome.
Meanwhile, Picha’s article is thought-provoking and it’s in a fashion magazine, which bears out my belief that a lot science communication takes place outside its usual channels. In one of my papers, I likened science communication to a conversation with several threads taking place.
Government studies such as the one from the UK (July 27, 2009 ETA this should read European Parliament not UK) that Michael Berger on Nanowerk Spotlight recently featured are definitely part of this conversation. From Berger’s article,
The authors of the study do not rely on the still widespread conceptual distinction between “therapy” and “enhancement”, but instead, in line with recent political statements on the issue, adopt a notion of human enhancement that includes non-therapeutic as well as some therapeutic measures.
Defining human enhancement as any “modification aimed at improving individual human performance and brought about by science-based or technology-based interventions in the human body”, they distinguish between
1) restorative or preventive, non-enhancing interventions,
2) therapeutic enhancements, and
3) non-therapeutic enhancements.
Faced with the often highly visionary and strongly ideological character of the debate on human enhancement, one must strive for a balance between advancing a rational discussion through critical analysis of the relevant visions and normative stances, and taking a close look at the diversity of HE technology and their actual social, technological and political significance
Berger’s article is well worth reading and links to the report itself and other articles that he’s written on the topic. Monday, July 27, 2009, I should be wrapping up this series.
In keeping with today’s ‘fashionable theme, I leave you with something musical from Manolo’s Shoe Blog. The writer who is not The Manolo, recently posted on one of his favourite rock songs (and one I’ve always loved), Runaway by Del Shannon. The posting is poignant and touching. Manolo has included two versions of the song, one sung by Shannon in the 1960s and again in the 1980s (this one includes part of an interview about the song Shannon wrote so many years before). Both are well worth checking out as you can see how an artist matures and develops over time. Seeing both enhances the experience of listening to each one. Go here.
You don’t expect to read about nanotechnology in a fashion magazine but there it was — in an article on sunscreens by Sarah Nicole Prickett. (The article titled, ‘Overprotected‘ can be found in the Summer 09 issue of a Canadian magazine called ‘Fashion‘.) The piece highlighted for me some of the constraints that writers encounter when writing about science issues in articles that are not destined for popular science magazines and the concerns that scientists have with how their work is represented in popular media.
I enjoyed the article but this caught my attention immediatedly,
But there’s another potentially dark side to sunscreen: nanotechnology.
For nanotechnology, you could substitute the words science or chemistry. The word covers a lot of ground as Victor Jones, consultant and former chair of Nanotech BC, noted in part 2 of his interview here where he described it as an enabling technology.
There are any number of reasons why the writer might have chosen this approach. She’s trying to keep your attention (I’ve done this myself); she doesn’t understand nanotechnology very well (Note: there are competing definitions and narratives which makes it time-consuming to sort things out); she thought the readers would not be interested in a more technically accurate and dull description (well, it’s not a science magazine); she didn’t have the editorial space; etc.
The problem for scientists is that a lot of people get their science information in this casual, informal way and it’s not understood by the general audience and scientists that writers are under a great many constraints when they’re producing their articles (or their tv or movie or game scripts for that matter) and I’ve only named a few possible constraints.
To give the writer credit, she does explain some of the potential issues with nanoparticles clearly. Personally, I would have liked to have seen where she got information from because I don’t know which type of particles she’s talking about.
Coincidentally, I just found a story about nanoparticles and lung problems. The type of particles discussed in the news release are new to me (from Physorg.com),
In a study published online today (Thursday 11 June) in the newly launched Journal of Molecular Cell Biology  Chinese researchers discovered that a class of nanoparticles being widely developed in medicine – ployamidoamine dendrimers (PAMAMs) – cause lung damage by triggering a type of programmed cell death known as autophagic cell death. They also showed that using an autophagy inhibitor prevented the cell death and counteracted nanoparticle-induced lung damage in mice.
Back to the article in ‘Fashion‘, she’s right there are a lot of questions about the impact about all these particles potentially entering our cells. The Canadian Council of Academies’ Expert Panel that she refers to in her article produced a report in 2008 and I thought their recommendations were rather tepid (you can see my posting here) but the quote she has from the chair of the committee, Pekka Sinervo, puts a different face on it.
I’m glad a chance to see the article and learn from it. Now, I’m going to be looking for more information about the particles in sunscreens and more cautious about what I put on my skin.
As for scientists getting their message out, maybe they could have a ‘Sexy Scientists’ article in a poular magazine and more accurate information about nanotechnology and other emerging technologies could be sausaged in somehow. In New York, there’s an annual World Science Festival going on. It looks like they’ve managed to move out of the science museum and into the street.
Now I can guess why I haven’t heard back from EMI (music and recording label), after asking them for permission to put an MP3 version of Flanders & Swann song (unintentional wordplay, at first), ‘First and Second Law’ on my Nanotech Mysteries wiki (the project I’m developing for my dissertation). The song is about the first and second laws of thermodynamics (there aren’t that many physics songs and thanks to Richard Jones for mentioning it in his nanotech book, Soft Machines) and it would fit in well with how I see my nano wiki developing. Apparently, EMI hold the rights which should mean a simple request and a ‘yes or no’ answer. That’s what I thought until this morning when I saw an article in the New York Times (here) by Tim Arango.
There was a takeover last year and the transition has not been smooth. At the moment, they’re planning on dropping about 1/3 of their workforce. I guess the employees have had more pressing concerns than replying to my request. Of course, the music industry seems to be in disarray as they’ve been hit with the music downloading situation which has led to questions about copyright and payments. (It’s more complicated than that and you might want to check out Techdirt (at www.techdirt.com) which comments and keeps track of these kinds of issues.) The whole thing really strikes home given the Canadian government’s recent copyright bill which will make criminals of almost everyone in the country.
The whole discussion seems ironic to me because when I was researching a paper on technology transfer about 15 years ago there was a lot of speculation as to why there was so much pirating and exchange of ‘free’ software in Asia. The consensus at the time was that these were cultural issues. Funny, the spirit that led Asian people to copy paid-for (or pirated) software and give it fot free to their friends seems remarkably similar to what we see happening globally with music. Maybe it’s cultural, maybe it’s something else.
A New Zealand researcher has found a way to introduce gold and/or silver nanoparticles into wool creating some unusual colour effects. The article with more details is available at the Nanowerk website here. If the article is to be believed you might be able to buy a $200 to $300 scarf woven in gold or silver (particles) in the not too distant future. It’s a little disconcerting that there aren’t many studies to determine if it’s healthy for humans or what the impact of these nanoparticles (which are in all kinds of products currently available) might be environmentally. It’s good to hear that the US Dept of Energy has awarded a $400,000 grant (details here) to researchers to look into these issues.
If you are interested in some pretty nanopictures, there are some ‘nano flowers’ here at Nanovida, produced by a PhD student Ghim Wei Ho. He works at Dr. Mark Welland at Cambridge University.