These textiles according to an April 24, 2023 news item on SpaceDaily do a little more than fight off bacteria (as impressive as that is),
Scientists from around the world have developed a simple metallic coating treatment for clothing or wearable textiles which can repair itself, repel dangerous bacteria from the wearer and even monitor a person’s electrocardiogram (ECG) heart signals.
Researchers from North Carolina State University [US], Flinders University [Australia] and South Korea [Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU] say the conductive circuits created by liquid metal (LM) particles can transform wearable electronics and open doors for further development of human-machine interfaces, including soft robotics and health monitoring systems.
The ‘breathable’ electronic textiles have special connectivity powers to ‘autonomously heal’ itself even when cut, says the US team led by international expert in the field, Professor Michael Dickey.
When the coated textiles are pressed with significant force, the particles merge into a conductive path, which enables the creation of circuits that can maintain conductivity when stretched, researchers say.
“The conductive patterns autonomously heal when cut by forming new conductive paths along the edge of the cut, providing a self-healing feature which makes these textiles useful as circuit interconnects, Joule heaters and flexible electrodes to measure ECG signals,” says Flinders University medical biotechnology researcher Dr Khanh Truong, senior co-author in a new article in Advanced Materials Technologies.
The technique involves dip-coating fabric into a suspension of LM particles at room temperature.
“Evenly coated textiles remain electrically insulating due to the native oxide that forms on the LM particles. However, the insulating effect can be removed by compressing the textile to rupture the oxide and thereby allow the particles to percolate.
“This enables the creation of conductive circuits by compressing the textile with a patterned mold. The electrical conductivity of the circuits increases by coating more particles on the textile.”
As well the LM-coated textiles offer effective antimicrobial protection against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
This germ repellent ability not only gives the treated fabric protective qualities but prevents the porous material from becoming contaminated if worn for and extended time, or put in contact with other people.
The particles of gallium-based liquid metals have low melting point, metallic electrical conductivity, high thermal conductivity, effectively zero vapor pressure, low toxicity and antimicrobial properties.
LMs have both fluidic and metallic properties so show great promise in applications such as microfluidics, soft composites, sensors, thermal switches and microelectronics.
One of the advantages of LM is that it can be deposited and patterned at room temperature onto surfaces in unconventional ways that are not possible with solid metals.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Liquid Metal Coated Textiles with Autonomous Electrical Healing and Antibacterial Properties (2023) by Jiayi Yang, Praneshnandan Nithyanandam, Shreyas Kanetkar, Ki Yoon Kwon, Jinwoo Ma, Sooik Im, Ji-Hyun Oh, Mohammad Shamsi, Mike Wilkins, Michael Daniele Tae-il Kim, Huu Ngoc Nguyen, Vi Khanh Truong and Michael D Dickey. Advanced Materials Technologies Online Version of Record before inclusion in an issue 2202183 DOI: 10.1002/admt.202202183 First published: 02 April 2023 [2nd DOI:] https://doi.org/10.1002/admt.202202183
This is, however, the first time I’ve seen CNTs used for ‘stab-resistant’ clothing. From an April 19, 2023 news item on ScienceDaily,
Fabrics that resist knife cuts can help prevent injuries and save lives. But a sharp enough knife or a very forceful jab can get through some of these materials. Now, researchers report in ACS Applied Nano Materials that carbon nanotubes and polyacrylate strengthen conventional aramid to produce lightweight, soft fabrics that provide better protection. Applications include anti-stabbing clothing, helmets and insoles, as well as cut-resistant packaging.
Soft body armor is typically made from aramid, ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, or carbon and glass fabrics. Their puncture resistance depends, in part, on the friction between yarn fibers within these materials. Up to a point, greater friction means greater protection. Manufacturers can boost friction by roughening the fiber surfaces, but that requires a complicated process, and product yield is low. Alternatively, the bonding force between yarns can be enhanced by adding another component, such as a sheer thickening fluid (STF) or a polyurethane (PU) coating. But these composite fabrics can’t simultaneously satisfy the requirements for thinness, flexibility and light weight. Ting-Ting Li, Xing-xiang Zhang and colleagues wanted to find another way to improve performance while satisfying these criteria.
The researchers tested a polyacrylate emulsion (PAE), STF and PU as coatings on aramid fabric. In simulated stabbing tests, aramid fabric coated with PAE outperformed the uncoated material used by itself or in combination with STF or PU. Carbon nanotubes are known to make composites tougher, and adding them to aramid/PAE further improved impact resistance. The team says that’s because the nanotubes created bridges between the fibers, thereby increasing friction. The nanotubes also formed a thin, protective network that dispersed stress away from the point of impact and helped prevent fiber disintegration. The new lightweight, flexible, puncture-resistant composite fabric could be useful in military and civilian applications, according to the researchers.
A team of University of Toronto Engineering researchers, led by Professor Kevin Golovin, have designed a solution to reduce the amount of microplastic fibres that are shed when clothes made of synthetic fabrics are washed.
In a world swamped by fast fashion — an industry that produces a high-volume of cheaply made clothing at an immense cost to the environment — more than two-thirds of clothes are now made of synthetic fabrics.
When clothes made from synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, acrylic and rayon, are washed in washing machines, the friction caused by cleaning cycles produces tiny tears in the fabric. These tears in turn cause microplastic fibres measuring less than 500 micrometres in length to break off and make their way down laundry drains to enter waterways.
Once microplastics end up in oceans and freshwater lakes and rivers, the particles are difficult to remove and will take decades or more to fully break down. The accumulation of this debris in bodies of water can threaten marine life. It can also become part of the human food chain through its presence in food and tap water, with effects on human health that are not yet clear.
Governments around the world have been looking for ways to minimize the pollution that comes from washing synthetic fabrics. One example is washing machine filters, which have emerged as a leading fix to stop microplastic fibres from entering waterways. In Ontario, legislative members have introduced a bill that would require filters in new washing machines in the province.
“And yet, when we look at what governments around the world are doing, there is no trend towards preventing the creation of microplastic fibres in the first place,” says Golovin.
“Our research is pushing in a different direction, where we actually solve the problem rather than putting a Band-Aid on the issue.”
Golovin and his team have created a two-layer coating made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) brushes, which are linear, single polymer chains grown from a substrate to form a nanoscale surface layer.
Experiments conducted by the team showed that this coating can significantly reduce microfibre shedding of nylon clothing after repeated laundering. The researchers share their findings in a new paper published in Nature Sustainability.
“My lab has been working with this coating on other surfaces, including glass and metals, for a few years now,” says Golovin. “One of the properties we have observed is that it is quite slippery, meaning it has very low friction.”
PDMS is a silicon-based organic polymer that is found in many household products. Its presence in shampoos makes hair shiny and slippery. It is also used as a food additive in oils to prevent liquids from foaming when bottled.
Dr. Sudip Kumar Lahiri, a postdoctoral researcher in Golovin’s lab and lead author of the study, had the idea that if they could reduce the friction that occurs during wash cycles with a PDMS-based fabric finish, then that could stop fibres from rubbing together and breaking off during laundering.
One of the biggest challenges the researchers faced during their study was ensuring the PDMS brushes stayed on the fabric. Lahiri, who is a textile engineer by trade, developed a molecular primer based on his understanding of fabric dyes.
Lahiri reasoned that the type of bonding responsible for keeping dyed apparel colourful after repeated washes could work for the PDMS coating as well.
Neither the primer nor the PDMS brushes work separately to decrease the microplastic-fibre shedding. But together, they created a strong finish that reduced the release of microfibres by more than 90% after nine washes.
“PDMS brushes are environmentally friendly because they are not derived from petroleum like many polymers used today,” says Golovin, who was awarded a Connaught New Researcher award for this work.
“With the addition of Sudip’s primer, our coating is robust enough to remain on the garment and continue to reduce micro-fibre shedding over time.”
Since PDMS is naturally a hydrophobic (water-repellent) material, the researchers are currently working on making the coating hydrophilic, so that coated fabrics will be better able to wick away sweat. The team has also expanded the research to look beyond nylon fabrics, including polyester and synthetic-fabric blends.
“Many textiles are made of multiple types of fibres,” says Golovin. “We are working to formulate the correct polymer architecture so that our coating can durably adhere to all of those fibres simultaneously.”
For the same reason some people like ‘Christmas in July’ events, I like to occasionally feature a nonseasonal story. Especially since the area where I live is going through an unseasonal cold snap and will be followed shortly by anomalously hot temperatures. So, more or less fittingly, an April 10, 2023 news item announces a new fabric,
Three engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have invented a fabric that concludes the 80-year quest to make a synthetic textile modeled on Polar bear fur. The results, published recently in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, are already being developed into commercially available products. [ACS is American Chemical Society.]
Polar bears live in some of the harshest conditions on earth, shrugging off Arctic temperatures as low as -50 Fahrenheit. While the bears have many adaptations that allow them to thrive when the temperature plummets, since the 1940s scientists have focused on one in particular: their fur. How, the scientific community has asked, does a polar bear’s fur keep them warm?
Typically, we think that the way to stay warm is to insulate ourselves from the weather. But there’s another way: One of the major discoveries of the last few decades is that many polar animals actively use the sunlight to maintain their temperature, and polar bear fur is a well-known case in point.
Scientists have known for decades that part of the bears’ secret is their white fur. One might think that black fur would be better at absorbing heat, but it turns out that the polar bears’ fur is extremely effective at transmitting solar radiation toward the bears’ skin.
“But the fur is only half the equation,” says the paper’s senior author, Trisha L. Andrew, associate professor of chemistry and adjunct in chemical engineering at UMass Amherst. “The other half is the polar bears’ black skin.”
As Andrew explains it, polar bear fur is essentially a natural fiberoptic, conducting sunlight down to the bears’ skin, which absorbs the light, heating the bear. But the fur is also exceptionally good at preventing the now-warmed skin from radiating out all that hard-won warmth. When the sun shines, it’s like having a thick blanket that warms itself up, and then traps that warmth next to your skin.
What Andrew and her team have done is to engineer a bilayer fabric whose top layer is composed of threads that, like polar bear fur, conduct visible light down to the lower layer, which is made of nylon and coated with a dark material called PEDOT [Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)]. PEDOT, like the polar bears’ skin, warms efficiently.
So efficiently, in fact, that a jacket made of such material is 30% lighter than the same jacket made of cotton yet will keep you comfortable at temperatures 10 degrees Celsius colder than the cotton jacket could handle, as long as the sun is shining or a room is well lit.
“Space heating consumes huge amounts of energy that is mostly fossil fuel-derived,” says Wesley Viola, the paper’s lead author, who completed his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at UMass and is now at Andrew’s startup, Soliyarn, LLC. “While our textile really shines as outerwear on sunny days, the light-heat trapping structure works efficiently enough to imagine using existing indoor lighting to directly heat the body. By focusing energy resources on the ‘personal climate’ around the body, this approach could be far more sustainable than the status quo.”
The research, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, is already being applied, and Soliyarn has begun production of the PEDOT-coated cloth.
A new smart material developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo is activated by both heat and electricity, making it the first ever to respond to two different stimuli.
The unique design paves the way for a wide variety of potential applications, including clothing that warms up while you walk from the car to the office in winter and vehicle bumpers that return to their original shape after a collision.
Inexpensively made with polymer nano-composite fibres from recycled plastic, the programmable fabric can change its colour and shape when stimuli are applied.
“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.”
The novel fabric design is a product of the happy union of soft and hard materials, featuring a combination of highly engineered polymer composites and stainless steel in a woven structure.
Researchers created a device similar to a traditional loom to weave the smart fabric. The resulting process is extremely versatile, enabling design freedom and macro-scale control of the fabric’s properties.
The fabric can also be activated by a lower voltage of electricity than previous systems, making it more energy-efficient and cost-effective. In addition, lower voltage allows integration into smaller, more portable devices, making it suitable for use in biomedical devices and environment sensors.
“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 next step for researchers is to improve the fabric’s shape-memory performance for applications in the field of robotics. The aim is to construct a robot that can effectively carry and transfer weight to complete tasks.
I imagine this wearable technology would also be useful for the military too. However, the focus for these researchers from China is firefighting. (Given the situation with the Canadian wildfires in June 2023, we have 10x more than the average at this time in the season over the last 10 years, it’s good to see some work focused on safety for firefighters.) From a January 17, 2023 news item on phys.org,
Firefighting may look vastly different in the future thanks to intelligent fire suits and masks developed by multiple research institutions in China.
Researchers published results showing breathable electrodes woven into fabric used in fire suits have proven to be stable at temperatures over 520ºC. At these temperatures, the fabric is found to be essentially non-combustible with high rates of thermal protection time.
The results show the efficacy and practicality of Janus graphene/poly(p-phenylene benzobisoxazole), or PBO, woven fabric in making firefighting “smarter” with the main goal being to manufacture products on an industrial scale that are flame-retardant but also intelligent enough to warn the firefighter of increased risks while traversing the flames.
“Conventional firefighting clothing and fire masks can ensure firemen’s safety to a certain extent,” said Wei Fan, professor at the School of Textile Science and Engineering at Xi’an Polytechnic University. “However, the fire scene often changes quickly, sometimes making firefighters trapped in the fire for failing to judge the risks in time. At this situation, firefighters also need to be rescued.”
The key here is the use of Janus graphene/PBO, woven fabrics. While not the first of its kind, the introduction of PBO fibers offers better strength and fire protection than other similar fibers, such as Kevlar. The PBO fibers are first woven into a fabric that is then irradiated using a CO2 infrared laser. From here, the fabric becomes the Janus graphene/PBO hybrid that is the focus of the study.
The mask also utilizes a top and bottom layer of Janus graphene/PBO with a piezoelectric layer in between that acts as a way to convert mechanical pressures to electricity.
“The mask has a good smoke particle filtration effect, and the filtration efficiency of PM2.5 and PM3.0 reaches 95% and 100%, respectively. Meanwhile, the mask has good wearing comfort as its respiratory resistance (46.8 Pa) is lower than 49 Pa of commercial masks. Besides, the mask is sensitive to the speed and intensity of human breathing, which can dynamically monitor the health of the firemen” said Fan.
Flame-retardant electronics featured in these fire suits are flexible, heat resistant, quick to make and low-cost which makes scaling for industrial production a tangible achievement. This makes it more likely that the future of firefighting suits and masks will be able to effectively use this technology. Quick, effective responses can also reduce economic losses attributed to fires.
“The graphene/PBO woven fabrics-based sensors exhibit good repeatability and stability in human motion monitoring and NO2 gas detection, the main toxic gas in fires, which can be applied to firefighting suits to help firefighters effectively avoiding danger” Fan said. Being able to detect sharp increases in NO2 gas can help firefighters change course in an instant if needed and could be a lifesaving addition to firefighter gear.
Major improvements can be made in the firefighting field to better protect the firefighters by taking advantage of graphene/PBO woven and nonwoven fabrics. Widescale use of this technology can help the researchers reach their ultimate goal of reducing mortality and injury to those who risk their lives fighting fires.
Yu Luo and Yaping Miao of the School of Textile Science and Engineering at Xi’an Polytechnic University contributed equally to this work. Professor Wei Fan is the corresponding author. Yingying Zhang and Huimin Wang of the Department of Chemistry at Tsinghua University, Kai Dong of the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Lin Hou and Yanyan Xu of Shaanxi Textile Research Institute Co., LTD, Weichun Chen and Yao Zhang of the School of Textile Science and Engineering at Xi’an Polytechnic University contributed to this research.
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Textile Vision Basic Research Program of China, Key Research and Development Program of Xianyang Science and Technology Bureau, Key Research and Development Program of Shaanxi Province, Natural Science Foundation of Shaanxi Province, and Scientific Research Project of Shaanxi Provincial Education Department.
Here are two links and a citation for the same paper,
This is a cleaned up version of the Ada Lovelace story,
A pioneer in the field of computing, she has a remarkable life story as noted in this October 13, 2014 posting, and explored further in this October 13, 2015 posting (Ada Lovelace “… manipulative, aggressive, a drug addict …” and a genius but was she likable?) published to honour the 200th anniversary of her birth.
In a December 8, 2022 essay for The Conversation, Corinna Schlombs focuses on skills other than mathematics that influenced her thinking about computers (Note: Links have been removed),
Growing up in a privileged aristocratic family, Lovelace was educated by home tutors, as was common for girls like her. She received lessons in French and Italian, music and in suitable handicrafts such as embroidery. Less common for a girl in her time, she also studied math. Lovelace continued to work with math tutors into her adult life, and she eventually corresponded with mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan at London University about symbolic logic.
Lovelace drew on all of these lessons when she wrote her computer program – in reality, it was a set of instructions for a mechanical calculator that had been built only in parts.
The computer in question was the Analytical Engine designed by mathematician, philosopher and inventor Charles Babbage. Lovelace had met Babbage when she was introduced to London society. The two related to each other over their shared love for mathematics and fascination for mechanical calculation. By the early 1840s, Babbage had won and lost government funding for a mathematical calculator, fallen out with the skilled craftsman building the precision parts for his machine, and was close to giving up on his project. At this point, Lovelace stepped in as an advocate.
To make Babbage’s calculator known to a British audience, Lovelace proposed to translate into English an article that described the Analytical Engine. The article was written in French by the Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea and published in a Swiss journal. Scholars believe that Babbage encouraged her to add notes of her own.
In her notes, which ended up twice as long as the original article, Lovelace drew on different areas of her education. Lovelace began by describing how to code instructions onto cards with punched holes, like those used for the Jacquard weaving loom, a device patented in 1804 that used punch cards to automate weaving patterns in fabric.
Having learned embroidery herself, Lovelace was familiar with the repetitive patterns used for handicrafts. Similarly repetitive steps were needed for mathematical calculations. To avoid duplicating cards for repetitive steps, Lovelace used loops, nested loops and conditional testing in her program instructions.
Finally, Lovelace recognized that the numbers manipulated by the Analytical Engine could be seen as other types of symbols, such as musical notes. An accomplished singer and pianist, Lovelace was familiar with musical notation symbols representing aspects of musical performance such as pitch and duration, and she had manipulated logical symbols in her correspondence with De Morgan. It was not a large step for her to realize that the Analytical Engine could process symbols — not just crunch numbers — and even compose music.
… Lovelace applied knowledge from what we today think of as disparate fields in the sciences, arts and the humanities. A well-rounded thinker, she created solutions that were well ahead of her time.
For more about Jacquard looms and computing, there’s Sarah Laskow’s September 16, 2014 article for The Atlantic, which includes some interesting details (Note: Links have been removed),
…, one of the very first machines that could run something like what we now call a “program” was used to make fabric. This machine—a loom—could process so much information that the fabric it produced could display pictures detailed enough that they might be mistaken for engravings.
Like, for instance, the image above [as of March 3, 2023, the image is not there]: a woven piece of fabric that depicts Joseph-Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the weaving technology that made its creation possible. As James Essinger recounts in Jacquard’sWeb, in the early 1840s Charles Babbage kept a copy at home and would ask guests to guess how it was made. They were usually wrong.
.. At its simplest, weaving means taking a series of parallel strings (the warp) lifting a selection of them up, and running another string (the weft) between the two layers, creating a crosshatch. …
The Jacquard loom, though, could process information about which of those strings should be lifted up and in what order. That information was stored in punch cards—often 2,000 or more strung together. The holes in the punch cards would let through only a selection of the rods that lifted the warp strings. In other words, the machine could replace the role of a person manually selecting which strings would appear on top. Once the punch cards were created, Jacquard looms could quickly make pictures with subtle curves and details that earlier would have take months to complete. …
… As Ada Lovelace wrote him: “We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.”
I’m not sure how I feel about a t-shirt, regardless of size, made of living biological material but these researchers seem uniformly enthusiastic. From a May 3, 2021 news item on phys.org (Note: A link has been removed),
Living materials, which are made by housing biological cells within a non-living matrix, have gained popularity in recent years as scientists recognize that often the most robust materials are those that mimic nature.
For the first time, an international team of researchers from the University of Rochester [located in New York state, US] and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands used 3D printers and a novel bioprinting technique to print algae into living, photosynthetic materials that are tough and resilient. The material has a variety of applications in the energy, medical, and fashion sectors. The research is published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
“Three-dimensional printing is a powerful technology for fabrication of living functional materials that have a huge potential in a wide range of environmental and human-based applications.” says Srikkanth Balasubramanian, a postdoctoral research associate at Delft and the first author of the paper. “We provide the first example of an engineered photosynthetic material that is physically robust enough to be deployed in real-life applications.”
HOW TO BUILD NEW MATERIALS: LIVING AND NONLIVING COMPONENTS
To create the photosynthetic materials, the researchers began with a non-living bacterial cellulose–an organic compound that is produced and excreted by bacteria. Bacterial cellulose has many unique mechanical properties, including its flexibility, toughness, strength, and ability to retain its shape, even when twisted, crushed, or otherwise physically distorted.
The bacterial cellulose is like the paper in a printer, while living microalgae acts as the ink. The researchers used a 3D printer to deposit living algae onto the bacterial cellulose.
The combination of living (microalgae) and nonliving (bacterial cellulose) components resulted in a unique material that has the photosynthetic quality of the algae and the robustness of the bacterial cellulose; the material is tough and resilient while also eco-friendly, biodegradable, and simple and scalable to produce. The plant-like nature of the material means it can use photosynthesis to “feed” itself over periods of many weeks, and it is also able to be regenerated–a small sample of the material can be grown on-site to make more materials.
ARTIFICIAL LEAVES, PHOTOSYNTHETIC SKINS, AND BIO-GARMENTS
The unique characteristics of the material make it an ideal candidate for a variety of applications, including new products such as artificial leaves, photosynthetic skins, or photosynthetic bio-garments.
Artificial leaves are materials that mimic actual leaves in that they use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide–a major driver of climate change–into oxygen and energy, much like leaves during photosynthesis. The leaves store energy in chemical form as sugars, which can then be converted into fuels. Artificial leaves therefore offer a way to produce sustainable energy in places where plants don’t grow well, including outer space colonies. The artificial leaves produced by the researchers at Delft and Rochester are additionally made from eco-friendly materials, in contrast to most artificial leaf technologies currently in production, which are produced using toxic chemical methods.
“For artificial leaves, our materials are like taking the ‘best parts’ of plants–the leaves–which can create sustainable energy, without needing to use resources to produce parts of plants–the stems and the roots–that need resources but don’t produce energy,” says Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor of biology at Rochester. “We are making a material that is only focused on the sustainable production of energy.”
Another application of the material would be photosynthetic skins, which could be used for skin grafts, Meyer says. “The oxygen generated would help to kick-start healing of the damaged area, or it might be able to carry out light-activated wound healing.”
Besides offering sustainable energy and medical treatments, the materials could also change the fashion sector. Bio-garments made from algae would address some of the negative environmental effects of the current textile industry in that they would be high-quality fabrics that would be sustainability produced and completely biodegradable. They would also work to purify the air by removing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and would not need to be washed as often as conventional garments, reducing water usage.
“Our living materials are promising because they can survive for several days with no water or nutrients access, and the material itself can be used as a seed to grow new living materials,” says Marie-Eve Aubin-Tam, an associate professor of bionanoscience at Delft. “This opens the door to applications in remote areas, even in space, where the material can be seeded on site.”
My June 21, 2018 posting was the last time these graphene-enhanced sports shoes/sneakers/running shoes/runners/trainers were mentioned here (it was also the first time). The latest version features newly graphene-enhanced shoe soles that last twice as long as the industry standard according to a March 30, 2021 article by Robert Lea for Azonano (Note: A link has been removed),
Thanks to researchers at the University of Manchester and UK-based sportswear manufacturer Inov-8, graphene can now be found at the tips of your toes as well as your fingers.
In 2017 Inov-8 brought to the market the first running shoe that utilizes graphene in its grips, and 4 years later the manufacturer is still innovating, offering a wide range of products that rely on the wonder material.
Now, as well as finding its way into the grips of the company’s running shoes, graphene is also found in the soles of the company’s latest long-distance running shoe too¹.
Using graphene as part of the cushioning insole in trail running shoes has led to a shoe that lasts twice as long as leading competitors’ footwear, the company says.
When Inov-8 began their quest to use graphene to improve running shoes, the initial goal was to employ the material to create improved rubber grips that would not wear down as quickly as other running shoes and retain grip for longer during this slower wearing process.
The company teamed with the University of Manchester to make this goal a reality, …
The graphene-enhanced grip proved such a hit with consumers that in the four years since its induction, shoes featuring the outer-sole now account for 50% of overall sales.
Building upon the success of Inov-8’s graphene gripped running shoe, the company has expanded its use of the material to a midsole foam. The graphene replaces EVA foam plates of carbon which are traditionally used in this form of long-distance running shoe.
Sports footwear firm inov-8 has unveiled the world’s first running shoe to use a graphene-enhanced foam in the sole, bucking the widespread trend for carbon-plate technology and doubling the industry standard for longevity.
Developed in collaboration with graphene experts at The University of Manchester, the cushioned foam, called G-FLY™, features as part of inov-8’s new trail shoe, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX™, designed for ultramarathon and long-distance runners.
Tests have shown the foam delivers 25% greater energy return than standard EVA foams and is far more resistant to compressive wear. It therefore maintains optimum levels of underfoot bounce and comfort for much longer.
This helps runners maintain a faster speed over greater distances, aid their feet in feeling fresher for longer, and prolong the life of their footwear.
Michael Price, COO of Lake District-based inov-8, said: …
“We’ve worked incredibly hard for the past two years with the university and leading footwear industry veteran Doug Sheridan in developing this innovation. A team of 40 athletes from across the world tested prototype shoes and more than 50 mixes of graphene-enhanced foam. Trail test reports show G-FLY foam still performing well after 1,200km – double the industry standard.”
Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, Reader in Nanomaterials at the University, home to both the National Graphene Institute and Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, said: “As well as on the trail, we also tested extensively in the laboratory, including subjecting the foam to aggressive ageing tests that mimic extensive use. Despite being significantly aged, the G-FLY foam still delivered more energy return than some unaged foams.
This is the first time I’ve seen wearable tech based on biological material, in this case, fungi. In diving further into this material (wordplay intended), I discovered some previous work on using fungi for building materials, which you’ll find later in this posting.
Fungi are among the world’s oldest and most tenacious organisms. They are now showing great promise to become one of the most useful materials for producing textiles, gadgets and other construction materials. The joint research venture undertaken by the University of the West of England, Bristol, the U.K. (UWE Bristol) and collaborators from Mogu S.r.l., Italy, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Torino, Italy and the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has demonstrated that fungi possess incredible properties that allow them to sense and process a range of external stimuli, such as light, stretching, temperature, the presence of chemical substances and even electrical signals. [emphasis mine]
This could help pave the way for the emergence of new fungal materials with a host of interesting traits, including sustainability, durability, repairability and adaptability. Through exploring the potential of fungi as components in wearable devices, the study has verified the possibility of using these biomaterials as efficient sensors with endless possible applications.
People are unlikely to think of fungi as a suitable material for producing gadgets, especially smart devices such as pedometers or mobile phones. Wearable devices require sophisticated circuits that connect to sensors and have at least some computing power, which is accomplished through complex procedures and special materials. This, roughly speaking, is what makes them “smart”. The collaboration of Prof. Andrew Adamatzky and Dr. Anna Nikolaidou from UWE Bristol’s Unconventional Computing Laboratory, Antoni Gandia, Chief Technology Officer at Mogu S.r.l., Prof. Alessandro Chiolerio from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Torino, Italy and Dr. Mohammad Mahdi Dehshibi, researcher with the UOC’s Scene Understanding and Artificial Intelligence Lab (SUNAI) have demonstrated that fungi can be added to the list of these materials.
Indeed, the recent study, entitled “Reactive fungal wearable” and featured in Biosystems, analyses the ability of oyster fungus Pleurotus ostreatus to sense environmental stimuli that could come, for example, from the human body. In order to test the fungus’s response capabilities as a biomaterial, the study analyses and describes its role as a biosensor with the ability to discern between chemical, mechanical and electrical stimuli.
“Fungi make up the largest, most widely distributed and oldest group of living organisms on the planet,” said Dehshibi, who added, “They grow extremely fast and bind to the substrate you combine them with”. According to the UOC researcher, fungi are even able to process information in a way that resembles computers.
“We can reprogramme a geometry and graph-theoretical structure of the mycelium networks and then use the fungi’s electrical activity to realize computing circuits,” said Dehshibi, adding that, “Fungi do not only respond to stimuli and trigger signals accordingly, but also allow us to manipulate them to carry out computational tasks, in other words, to process information”. As a result, the possibility of creating real computer components with fungal material is no longer pure science fiction. In fact, these components would be capable of capturing and reacting to external signals in a way that has never been seen before.
Why use fungi?
These fungi have less to do with diseases and other issues caused by their kin when grown indoors. What’s more, according to Dehshibi, mycelium-based products are already used commercially in construction. He said: “You can mould them into different shapes like you would with cement, but to develop a geometric space you only need between five days and two weeks. They also have a small ecological footprint. In fact, given that they feed on waste to grow, they can be considered environmentally friendly”.
The world is no stranger to so-called “fungal architectures” [emphasis mine], built using biomaterials made from fungi. Existing strategies in this field involve growing the organism into the desired shape using small modules such as bricks, blocks or sheets. These are then dried to kill off the organism, leaving behind a sustainable and odourless compound.
But this can be taken one step further, said the expert, if the mycelia are kept alive and integrated into nanoparticles and polymers to develop electronic components. He said: “This computer substrate is grown in a textile mould to give it shape and provide additional structure. Over the last decade, Professor Adamatzky has produced several prototypes of sensing and computing devices using the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, including various computational geometry processors and hybrid electronic devices.”
The upcoming stretch
Although Professor Adamatzky found that this slime mould is a convenient substrate for unconventional computing, the fact that it is continuously changing prevents the manufacture of long-living devices, and slime mould computing devices are thus confined to experimental laboratory set-ups.
However, according to Dehshibi, thanks to their development and behaviour, basidiomycetes are more readily available, less susceptible to infections, larger in size and more convenient to manipulate than slime mould. In addition, Pleurotus ostreatus, as verified in their most recent paper, can be easily experimented on outdoors, thus opening up the possibility for new applications. This makes fungi an ideal target for the creation of future living computer devices.
The UOC researcher said: “In my opinion, we still have to address two major challenges. The first consists in really implementing [fungal system] computation with a purpose; in other words, computation that makes sense. The second would be to characterize the properties of the fungal substrates via Boolean mapping, in order to uncover the true computing potential of the mycelium networks.” To word it another way, although we know that there is potential for this type of application, we still have to figure out how far this potential goes and how we can tap into it for practical purposes.
We may not have to wait too long for the answers, though. The initial prototype developed by the team, which forms part of the study, will streamline the future design and construction of buildings with unique capabilities, thanks to their fungal biomaterials. The researcher said: “This innovative approach promotes the use of a living organism as a building material that is also fashioned to compute.” When the project wraps up in December 2022, the FUNGAR project will construct a large-scale fungal building in Denmark and Italy, as well as a smaller version on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay Campus.
Dehshibi said: “To date, only small modules such as bricks and sheets have been manufactured. However, NASA [US National Aeronautics Space Administration] is also interested in the idea and is looking for ways to build bases on the Moon and Mars to send inactive spores to other planets.” To conclude, he said: “Living inside a fungus may strike you as odd, but why is it so strange to think that we could live inside something living? It would mark a very interesting ecological shift that would allow us to do away with concrete, glass and wood. Just imagine schools, offices and hospitals that continuously grow, regenerate and die; it’s the pinnacle of sustainable life.”
For the Authors of the paper, the point of fungal computers is not to replace silicon chips. Fungal reactions are too slow for that. Rather, they think humans could use mycelium growing in an ecosystem as a “large-scale environmental sensor.” Fungal networks, they reason, are monitoring a large number of data streams as part of their everyday existence. If we could plug into mycelial networks and interpret the signals, they use to process information, we could learn more about what was happening in an ecosystem.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Reactive fungal wearable by Andrew Adamatzky, Anna Nikolaidou, Antoni Gandia, Alessandro Chiolerio, Mohammad Mahdi Dehshibi. Biosystems Volume 199, January 2021, 104304 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biosystems.2020.104304
This paper is behind a paywall.
Fungal architecture and building materials
Here’s a video, which shows the work which inspired the fungal architecture that Dr. Dehshibi mentioned in the press release about wearable tech,
The video shows a 2014 Hy-Fi installation by The Living for MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) PS1 in New York City. Here’s more about HyFi and what it inspired from a January 15, 2021 article by Caleb Davies for the EU (European Union) Research and Innovation Magazine and republished on phys.org (Note: Links have been removed),
In the summer of 2014 a strange building began to take shape just outside MoMA PS1, a contemporary art centre in New York City. It looked like someone had started building an igloo and then got carried away, so that the ice-white bricks rose into huge towers. It was a captivating sight, but the truly impressive thing about this building was not so much its looks but the fact that it had been grown.
The installation, called Hy-Fi, was designed and created by The Living, an architectural design studio in New York. Each of the 10,000 bricks had been made by packing agricultural waste and mycelium, the fungus that makes mushrooms, into a mould and letting them grow into a solid mass.
This mushroom monument gave architectural researcher Phil Ayres an idea. “It was impressive,” said Ayres, who is based at the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture in Copenhagen, Denmark. But this project and others like it were using fungus as a component in buildings such as bricks without necessarily thinking about what new types of building we could make from fungi.
That’s why he and three colleagues have begun the FUNGAR project—to explore what kinds of new buildings we might construct out of mushrooms.