Tag Archives: textiles

Carbon nanotubes and stab-resistant fabric

The use of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in protective clothing is not new (see my November 4, 2013 post titled, “A $20,000+, bulletproof, carbon nanotube-enabled business suit from a Toronto-based company (Canada) being tested Nov. 5, 2013“).

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.

An April 19, 2023 American Chemical Society (ACS) news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the current situation with body armo(u)r and how this research could change things,

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.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Polyacrylate and Carboxylic Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotube-Strengthened Aramid Fabrics as Flexible Puncture-Resistant Composites for Anti-Stabbing Applications by Wen-hua Cai, Ting-ting Li, and Xing-xiang Zhang. ACS Appl. Nano Mater. 2023, 6, 7, 6334–6344 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsanm.3c00738 Publication Date:April 5, 2023 Copyright © 2023 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Smart fabric from University of Waterloo (Canada) responds to temperature and electricity

This textile from the University of Waterloo is intriguing,

Caption: An electric current is applied to an engineered smart fabric consisting of plastic and steel fibres. Credit: University of Waterloo

An April 24, 2023 news item on phys.org introduces this new material,

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.

An April 24, 2023 University of Waterloo news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more detail, Note: A link has been removed,

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.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Multi-Stimuli Dually-Responsive Intelligent Woven Structures with Local Programmability for Biomimetic Applications by Runxin Xu, Guanzheng Wu, Mengmeng Jiang, Shaojie Cao, Mahyar Panahi-Sarmad, Milad Kamkar, Xueliang Xiao. Nano-Micro Small DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/smll.202207900 First published: 19 February 2023

This paper is open access.

Ada Lovelace’s skills (embroidery, languages, and more) led to her pioneering computer work in the 19th century

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.

If you have time, do check out Schlombs’ essay (h/t December 9, 2022 news item on phys.org).

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’s Web, 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.”

For anyone who’s very curious about Jacquard looms, there’s a June 25, 2019 Objects and Stories article (Programming patterns: the story of the Jacquard loom) on the UK’s Science and Industry Museum (in Manchester) website.

Embroidery as a low-cost solution for making wearable electronics?

A November 22, 2022 news item on Nanowerk explores embroidery as a means for affixing wearable electronics to textiles,

Embroidering power-generating yarns onto fabric allowed researchers to embed a self-powered, numerical touch-pad and movement sensors into clothing. The technique offers a low-cost, scalable potential method for making wearable devices.

“Our technique uses embroidery, which is pretty simple – you can stitch our yarns directly on the fabric,” said the study’s lead author Rong Yin, assistant professor of textile engineering, chemistry and science at North Carolina State University. “During fabric production, you don’t need to consider anything about the wearable devices. You can integrate the power-generating yarns after the clothing item has been made.”

Caption: Yu Chen, graduate student at NC State, demonstrates embroidery techniques. Courtesy: North Caroline State University

A North Carolina State University November 22, 2022 news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the research in more detail,

In the study published in Nano Energy, researchers tested multiple designs for power-generating yarns. To make them durable enough to withstand the tension and bending of the embroidery stitching process, they ultimately used five commercially available copper wires, which had a thin polyurethane coating, together. Then, they stitched them onto cotton fabric with another material called PTFE.

“This is a low-cost method for making wearable electronics using commercially available products,” Yin said. “The electrical properties of our prototypes were comparable to other designs that relied on the same power generation mechanism.”

The researchers relied on a method of generating electricity called the “triboelectric effect,” which involves harnessing electrons exchanged by two different materials, like static electricity. They found the PTFE fabric had the best performance in terms of voltage and current when in contact with the polyurethane-coated copper wires, as compared to other types of fabric that they tested, including cotton and silk. They also tested coating the embroidery samples in plasma to increase the effect.

In our design, you have two layers – one is your conductive, polyurethane-coated copper wires, and the other is PTFE, and they have a gap between them,” Yin said. “When the two non-conductive materials come into contact with each other, one material will lose some electrons, and some will get some electrons. When you link them together, there will be a current.”

Researchers tested their yarns as motion sensors by embroidering them with the PTFE fabric on denim. They placed the embroidery patches on the palm, under the arm, at the elbow and at the knee to track electrical signals generated as a person moves. They also attached fabric with their embroidery on the insole of a shoe to test its use as a pedometer, finding their electrical signals varied depending on whether the person was walking, running or jumping.

Lastly, they tested their yarns in a textile-based numeric keypad on the arm, which they made by embroidering numbers on a piece of cotton fabric, and attaching them to a piece of PTFE fabric. Depending on the number that the person pushed on the keypad, they saw different electrical signals generated for each number.

“You can embroider our yarns onto clothes, and when you move, it generates an electrical signal, and those signals can be used as a sensor,” Yin said. “When we put the embroidery in a shoe, if you are running, it generates a higher voltage than if you were just walking. When we stitched numbers onto fabric, and press them, it generates a different voltage for each number. It could be used as an interface.”

Since textile products will inevitably be washed, they tested the durability of their embroidery design in a series of washing and rubbing tests. After hand washing and rinsing the embroidery with detergent, and drying it in an oven, they found no difference or a slight increase in voltage. For the prototype coated in plasma, they found weakened but still superior performance compared with the original sample. After an abrasion test, they found that there was no significant change in electrical output performance of their designs after 10,000 rubbing cycles.

In future work, they plan to integrate their sensors with other devices to add more functions.

“The next step is to integrate these sensors into a wearable system,” Yin said.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Flexible, durable, and washable triboelectric yarn and embroidery for self-powered sensing and human-machine interaction by Yu Chen, Erdong Chen, Zihao Wang, Yali Ling, Rosie Fisher, Mengjiao Li, Jacob Hart, Weilei Mu, Wei Gao, Xiaoming Tao, Bao Yang and Rong Yin. Nano Energy Volume 104, Part A, 15 December 2022, 107929 DOI: 10.1016/j.nanoen.2022.107929 Available online: 27 October 2022 Version of Record: 4 November 2022.

This paper is behind a paywall.

A spray-on dress with nanoparticles as the base?

Even a month after the fact, this is still fascinating. The magic is in watching the paint/textile get sprayed onto model, Bella Hadid’s body, and watching the liquid transform into a textile. (Note: Ms. Hadid has a minimal amount of clothing at the start),

Fashion designer/scientist, Manel Torres developed the technology, Fabrican, about 20 years ago according to an October 14, 2022 article by Gooseed for complex.com,

Coperni, the Parisian ready-to-wear brand founded by Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, has always focused on tailored minimalism since it launched in 2013. Yet it also strives to take an innovative approach to design that connects its collections with the current fashion moment and pay homage to the past.  

The finale of their Spring/Summer 2023 presentation for Paris Fashion Week, where model Bella Hadid walked onto stage half-naked to get sprayed with a white substance, gave the brand a viral moment. At first glance, most of us thought it was a performance. But after a few minutes, the white shell that appeared on Bella’s body looked like a dress solidified into a texture that almost resembled latex. It wasn’t a body painting, but an actual dress. Charlotte Raymond, Coperni’s Head of Design, even helped style the dress by cutting a slit into the garment and altering the straps to make it an off the shoulder silhouette. The rest is history. Videos of the dress blew up on social media and are now anchored in the digital ether.

The truth is that this magic behind the dress is not new. It has been around for almost two decades.

The innovative technology behind Hadid’s Coperni dress was created by Manel Torres, a Spanish fashion designer turned scientist. Torres has been nicknamed “The Chemist Tailor” because of Fabrican, a liquid tissue made up of polymers, additives, and fiber that turns into a solid nonwoven material when it comes into contact with air. That’s why Fabrican can come out of a spray can to instantly create something like Bella’s Coperni dress. It can also be used to create protective covering for furniture or car interiors. Torres founded his business in 2003 and has been researching the possibility of creating clothes, chairs, and medical patches with just one spray for over 20 years and counting.

His journey started first at the La Escuela de Artes y Técnicas de la Moda in Barcelona, where Torres studied arts with a specialty in fashion design. He then enrolled at the Royal College of Art in London where he graduated with an MA in womenswear. He went on to graduate with a PhD from the Royal College of Art in 2001 by publishing a thesis centered on spray-on fabrics from an aerosol can. It was a collaborative thesis between his school’s fashion department and the chemical engineering department at the Imperial College of London. Torres then started creating his own collections with the first versions of Fabrican fabric. Before Coperni, he presented Fabrican at several runway shows like Science in Style in 2010 and during Moscow Fashion Week in 2011.

Despite Torres’ fashion background, he mostly works with clients within the automobile, medical, and sportswear industry. “I’m a fashion guy so my wish is that this industry starts to invest more in technology and not rely so much on branding,” says Torres when sharing his views on the fashion industry a couple days after the Coperni moment.

Torres’ drive to push Fabrican into the fashion business has also garnered the interest of other industries outside of apparel. He says it has made him realize that there are possibilities for new production models in all aspects of design. “This is completely a new idea so it requires a completely new approach. That in an industry like fashion, and in any industry in general, is going to take some time,” says Torres. He is patient and persistent about achieving his number one goal, which is to make Fabrican available for everybody.

Additionally, since Fabrican is plant-based and composed of natural fibers, it can be used as an alternative to animal-derived leathers. The fabric can also be washed and reused and sprayed on to again to extend the garment. Torres hopes to grow Fabrican to an industrial scale with the help of a robotic arm spray system that could quickly create complex forms in a very precise way and operate 24 hours a day, which could significantly reduce human labor and product costs associated with garment production. The durability of the fabric is also something that Torres assures to be “very similar to the clothes we use daily but needs to be improved.” He reveals that he’s currently working with the German government to apply Fabrican technology to produce uniforms.


For the curious, there are more images and videos embedded, as well as, the links I’ve have eliminated from the excerpts, in Gooseed’s October 14, 2022 article.

Eglė Radžiūtė’s October 3 (?), 2022 article for boredpanda.com fills out the fashion commentary with a bit more detail about the science, Note: Links have been removed,

In about 9 minutes, Bella’s body was engulfed in a light layer of fabric. Once the fabric had a second to settle, Coperni’s Head of Design Charlotte Raymond came up to wipe off the excess and shape the dress into its final form. Lowering the shoulder straps, cutting the bottom to mid-calf length, and adding a slit on Bella’s left leg, Charlotte completed something that was out of this world.

The segment was not previously rehearsed with Bella due to her Paris Fashion Week schedule, adding to the magic, as well as showing off the professionalism of the dress’s engineers, the designers, and Bella herself. The night before the show, a model stood in for Bella, but she couldn’t control her shivering on the chilly runway as the cold material hit her skin.

“I was so nervous,” Bella said backstage, as it would have been her first experience being sprayed. But she didn’t let it show. She was steely and delicate, occasionally raising her arms above her head with an elegant flair, or offering a little smile at the people working on her. “I kind of just became the character, whoever she is.”

Wasn’t it cold up there? “Honey, cold is an understatement,” Bella said, as reported by the NYTimes. “I really blacked out.” Yet as soon as she left the runway, she felt like the performance had been a “pinnacle moment” in her career.

Let’s dive into the science behind the dress. Partnering with Doctor Manel Torres, Founder and Managing Director of Fabrican Ltd, they utilized a spray-on fabric that, once sprayed, dries to create a wearable, non-woven textile. It can be made using different types of fibers: from natural to synthetic, including wool, cotton, nylon, cellulose, and carbon nanofibers. [emphasis mine]

Based in London [UK], at the London Bioscience Innovation Center, Doctor Torres has been working on this multifaceted piece of technology since 2003. A liquid suspension—a finely distributed solid in a liquid, which is not dissolved—is applied via spray gun or aerosol to a surface, creating a fabric. The cross-linking of fibers, which adhere to one another, creates an instant non-woven fabric.

The future-forward invention may be used for more than just creating intricate fashion; they believe it can revolutionize multiple industries. As stated on BBC’s The Imagineers, the fabric is sterile and thus can be made into bandages. It can be made to set hard and, thus, could be used as a cast for broken bones. But perhaps most crucially, the fabric absorbs oil, and so it could be used to clean up after oil tanker disasters.

Whilst in pictures the dress looked to be made of a kind of silk or cotton, those who got close enough to touch it discovered that it felt soft but elastic, bumpy like a sponge. According to Arnaud, the dress was taken off like any other tight, slightly stretchy one: a process of peeling off and shimmying out. It can be hung and washed, or put back into the bottle of its original solution to regenerate.

Coperni is an ultra-modern Parisian ready-to-wear and accessories brand designed by Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant. Established in 2013, the pair have been on a mission to find the intersection between fashion and technology, “marrying exhaustive origami-like technique with a neat, ‘sportif’ silhouette.”

You can better see the dress’s texture in this image,

Image credits: bellahadid [downloaded from https://www.boredpanda.com/bella-hadid-coperni-spray-on-dress/?utm_source=duckduckgo&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=organic]

Health concerns

Do read the comments at the end of Eglė Radžiūtė’s October 3 (?), 2022 article. Most are admiring but there is a cautionary note from a construction painter noting that no one wore any “respiratory protective devices.” An ‘industrial hygienist’ seconded the the painter’s concern “that stuff is in their lungs,” as would anyone concerned with lung health.

The science of a spray-on textile

You can glean some information from his patent filings (where you’ll find mention of nanosilica but not of the carbon nanofibers mentioned in Radžiūtė’s article), Non-woven fabric Patent number: 8124549; Non-woven fabric Patent number: 8088315; Non-Woven Fabric Publication number: 20100286583; Non-Woven Fabric Publication number: 20090036014; and Non-woven fabric Publication number: 20050222320 on justia.com. The full list of Torres’ patents is here.

I’m guessing there’s more than one kind of engineered nanomaterial to be found in Torres’ mixtures but he’s pretty careful about spilling too much information. Charlotte Hu in her October 4, 2022 article for Popular Science helps to decode further the information in the patents (Note: Links have been removed),

This instantaneously materialized dress is not a magic trick, but a testament to innovations in material science more than two decades in the making. The man behind the creation is Manel Torres, who in 2003 created the substance used on Hadid, Fabrican (presumably a portmanteau of the phrase “fabric in a can”). His inspiration? Silly string and spiderwebs. His idea was to elevate the coarse cords of the silly string into a finer fabric that could be dispersed through a mist. Torres explained in a 2013 Ted Talk that when this spray-on fabric comes in contact with air, it turns into a solid material that’s stretchy and feels like suede. 

What exactly is in Fabrican? According to the patents granted to the company, the liquid fabric is made up of a suspension of liquid polymers (large molecules bonded together), additives, binders like natural latex, cross-linked natural and synthetic fibers, and a fast-evaporating solvent like acetone. The fibers can be polyester, polypropylene, cotton, linen, or wool. 

Torres added that they can easily form the material around 3D molds or patterns and tweak the textures, so they can get something that’s fleece-like, paper-like, lace-like, or rubber-like. He imagined that people could go into a booth, customize their dress, and instantly have it 3D printed onto their bodies. The spray could even be used for spot repairs on existing clothing.  

… Fabrican states on its website that it uses “fibres recycled from discarded clothes and other fabrics. The technology can also utilise biodegradable fibres and binders in place of fossil-based polymers to reduce the carbon footprint of material and manufacturing.” Additionally, the company said that “at the end of their useful life, sprayed fabrics can be re-dissolved and sprayed anew.”  

For the curious, here’s the Fabrican Ltd. website, the Coperni website, and a Wikipedia entry for Silly String.

I have another story about producing something in midair in a May 17, 2016 posting titled: Printing in midair. That was about 3D printing metallic devices in midair.

H/t to the Celebrity Social Media October 3, 2022 posting (keep scrolling down about 75% of the way down) on Laineygossip.com and to Rosemary Hurst because her comments about the dress led me to Charlotte Hu’s article. *ETA: November 4, 2022 at 1550 PT: Rosemary compared to a process for handmaking paper.*

Computers made of gold embroidery and an Organic Bioelectronics conference (ORBITALY) in Naples, Italy

Spend enough time reading about emerging technologies and, at some point, you will find yourself questioning some of your dearly held beliefs. It gives a whole new meaning to term, mind altering (also, mind blowing or mind expanding), which in the 1960s was used to refer to the effects of LSD and other hallucinogens. Today <September 1, 2019 (Labour Day in Canada and elsewhere), I have two news bits that could be considered mind expanding, sans hallucinogens.

Gold-embroidered computers

The Embroidered Computer. Artists: Irene Posch and Ebru Kurbak .[downloaded from http://www.ireneposch.net/the-embroidered-computer/]

If you look closely, you’ll see the beads shift position and that’s how the ones and zeroes make themselves known on this embroidered computer. An August 23, 2019 article (updated from a March 8, 2019 article) on the CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio, Spark programme web space, provides insight into the work,

A beautiful ’embroidered computer’ may explode our categories of what computers are supposed to look like.

After all, we may think the design of a computer is permanent, but what a computer ‘looks like’ depends a lot on what era it’s from.

“We use gold-coloured copper wire to form a coil, in a donut shape” Posch told Spark host Nora Young. “Then we have a magnetic bead that sits in the middle of this coil, and when this coil is [connected to] power, the magnetic bead is either attracted or pushed away….

Depending on how we power… the embroidered coil, we can direct the magnetic bead in different positions.”

More gold embroidery on top of the bead will flip one way or another, based on the bead [above].

The process is analogous to the zeros and ones of computation.

As well as being an artist, Posch is a professor at the University for Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria. Much of her work and research uses textile art to explore digital technology.

In this case, it’s not like Irene expects people to start doing today’s heavy-duty computing on a two-metre-long, eight-bit golden embroidered fabric computer. But The Embroidered Computer project opens up space to question the design of computers in particular, but also our technologies in general

“I understand The Embroidered Computer as an alternative, as an example, but also a critique of what we assume a computer to be today, and how it technically could be different,” Posch said. “If this is actually what we want is a whole different question, but I think it’s interesting to propose an alternative.”

Bringing together textiles and electronics, which are normally seen as worlds apart, can bring new insights. “Going into the history of computing we very soon become aware that they’re not that apart as we sometimes think they are, if you think of the Jacquard weaving loom as one of the predecessors of computing today.”

You can find our more about the artists (Ebru Kurkak here) and (Irene Posch here). Finally, you can hear the Spark radio interview with Irene Posch here.


I don’t have a lot of information about this event but what I do have looks intriguing. From the ORBITALY 2019 conference home page,

OrBItaly (Organic BIoelectronics Italy) is an international conference, organized by the Italian Scientific Community and attended by scientists of the highest reputation, dedicated to the most recent results in the field of bioelectronics, with a particular focus on the employment of organic materials.

OrBItaly has attracted in the years a growing interest by scientists coming from all over the world. The 2019 edition is the fifth one of this cross-disciplinary conference, and will be held in Naples, on October 21st-23rd, 2019, at the Congress Center of the University Federico II

This year the conference will be preceded by the first edition of the Graduate School in Organic Bioelectronics, that will be held at the Congress Center of the University of Naples Federico II in Naples (Italy), on October 20th, 2019. The school is mainly targeted to PhD students, post-docs and young researchers as well as to senior scientists and industry-oriented researchers, giving them the opportunity to attend an overview of the latest advances in the fields of organic bioelectronics presented by leading scientists of the highest international repute. Invited lecturers will provide highly stimulating lessons at advanced levels in their own field of research, and closely interact with the attendees during platform discussions, outreach events and informal meetings.

Organizing Committee

Mario Barra, CNR – SPIN, mario.barra@spin.cnr.it
Irene Bonadies, CNR – IPCB, irene.bonadies@ipcb.cnr.it
Antonio Cassinese, Univ. Napoli Federico II, cassinese@na.infn.it
Valeria Criscuolo, IIT, valeria.criscuolo@iit.it
Claudia Lubrano, IIT, claudia.lubrano@iit.it
Maria Grazia Maglione, ENEA, mariagrazia.maglione@enea.it
Paola Manini, Univ. Napoli Federico II, paola.manini@unina.it
Alessandro Pezzella, Univ. Napoli Federico II, alessandro.pezzella@unina.it
Maria Grazia Raucci, CNR – IPCB, mariagrazia.raucci@cnr.it
Francesca Santoro, IIT, francesca.santoro@iit.it
Paolo Tassini, ENEA, paolo.tassini@enea.it

So, the conference runs from the 21st to the 23rd of October 2019 and there’s a one-day graduate school programme being held one day prior to the conference on the 20th of October 2019.

Regular readers may notice that some of the ORBITALY 2019 organizers have recently been mentioned here in an August 25, 2019 posting titled, Cyborgs based on melanin circuits.

Gold at the nanoscale in medieval textiles

It takes a while (i.e., you have to read the abstract for the paper) to get to the nanoscale part of the story. In the meantime, here are the broad brushstrokes (as it were) from a group of researchers in Hungary, from an Oct. 11, 2017 American Chemical Society (ACS) news release (also on EurekAlert),

Gold has long been valued for its luxurious glitter and hue, and threads of the gleaming metal have graced clothing and tapestries for centuries. Determining how artisans accomplished these adornments in the distant past can help scientists restore, preserve and date artifacts, but solutions to these puzzles have been elusive. Now scientists, reporting in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry, have revealed that medieval artisans used a gilding technology that has endured for centuries.

Researchers can learn a lot about vanished cultures from objects left behind. But one detail that has escaped understanding has been the manufacturing method of gold-coated silver threads found in textiles from the Middle Ages. Four decades of intensive research yielded some clues, but the findings have been very limited. Study of the materials has been hindered by their extremely small size: A single metal thread is sometimes only as thick as a human hair, and the thickness of its gold coating is a hundredth of that. Tamás G. Weiszburg, Katalin Gherdán and colleagues set out to fill this gap.

Using a suite of lab techniques, the researchers examined medieval gilded silver threads, and silver and gold strips produced during and after the Middle Ages. The items come from European cultures spanning the 13th to 17th centuries. The researchers characterized the chemistry of the silver thread, its gold coating, the interactions between the two and the shape of metal strips’ edges. To characterize the threads and strips, the researchers combined high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, electron back-scattered diffraction with energy-dispersive electron probe microanalysis and other analytical methods. Though previous studies indicated that these tiny objects were manufactured by a mercury-based method in fashion at that time, the new results suggest that the threads were gilded exclusively by using an ancient method that survived for a millennium. The goldsmiths simply heated and hammered the silver sheets and the gold foil together, and then cut them into strips. It was also possible to determine whether scissor- or knife-like tools were used for cutting. The results also show that this process was used widely in the region well into the 17th century.

The authors acknowledge funding from the European Social Fund.

Here’s an image of medieval bling,

Caption: A new study unravels how medieval artisans embellished textiles with gold. Credit: The American Chemical Society

Finally, here’s the abstract with the information about the nanoscale elements (link to paper follows abstract),

Although gilt silver threads were widely used for decorating historical textiles, their manufacturing techniques have been elusive for centuries. Contemporary written sources give only limited, sometimes ambiguous information, and detailed cross-sectional study of the microscale soft noble metal objects has been hindered by sample preparation. In this work, to give a thorough characterization of historical gilt silver threads, nano- and microscale textural, chemical, and structural data on cross sections, prepared by focused ion beam milling, were collected, using various electron-optical methods (high-resolution scanning electron microscopy (SEM), wavelength-dispersive electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) combined with energy-dispersive electron probe microanalysis (EDX), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) combined with EDX, and micro-Raman spectroscopy. The thickness of the gold coating varied between 70–400 nm [emphasis mine]. Data reveal nano- and microscale metallurgy-related, gilding-related and corrosion-related inhomogeneities in the silver base. These inhomogeneities account for the limitations of surface analysis when tracking gilding methods of historical metal threads, and explain why chemical information has to be connected to 3D texture on submicrometre scale. The geometry and chemical composition (lack of mercury, copper) of the gold/silver interface prove that the ancient gilding technology was diffusion bonding. The observed differences in the copper content of the silver base of the different thread types suggest intentional technological choice. Among the examined textiles of different ages (13th–17th centuries) and provenances narrow technological variation has been found.

Here’s a link to the paper,

Medieval Gilding Technology of Historical Metal Threads Revealed by Electron Optical and Micro-Raman Spectroscopic Study of Focused Ion Beam-Milled Cross Sections by Tamás G. Weiszburg, Katalin Gherdán, Kitti Ratter, Norbert Zajzon, Zsolt Bendő, György Radnóczi, Ágnes Takács, Tamás Váczi, Gábor Varga and György Szakmány. Anal. Chem., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b01917 Publication Date (Web): September 19, 2017

Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

One final comment, if you read the abstract, you’ll see how many technologies the researchers needed to use to examine the textiles. How did medieval artisans create nanoscale and microscale gilding when they couldn’t see it? I realize there are now some optical microscopes that can provide a view of the nanoscale but presumably those artisans of the Middle Ages did not have access to that kind of equipment. So, how did they create those textiles with the technology of the day?

Cotton that glows ‘naturally’

Interesting, non? This is causing a bit of excitement but before first, here’s more from the Sept. 14, 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) news release on EurekAlert,

Cotton that’s grown with molecules that endow appealing properties – like fluorescence or magnetism – may one day eliminate the need for applying chemical treatments to fabrics to achieve such qualities, a new study suggests. Applying synthetic polymers to fabrics can result in a range of appealing properties, but anything added to a fabric can get washed or worn away. Furthermore, while many fibers used in fabrics are synthetic (e.g., polyester), some consumers prefer natural fibers to avoid issues related to sensation, skin irritation, smoothness, and weight. Here, Filipe Natalio and colleagues created cotton fibers that incorporate composites with fluorescent and magnetic properties. They synthesized glucose derivatives that deliver the desirable molecules into the growing ovules of the cotton plant, Gossypium hirsutum. Thus, the molecules are embedded into the cotton fibers themselves, rather than added in the form of a chemical treatment. The resulting fibers exhibited fluorescent or magnetic properties, respectively, although they were weaker than raw fibers lacking the embedded composites, the authors report. They propose that similar techniques could be expanded to other biological systems such as bacteria, bamboo, silk, and flax – essentially opening a new era of “material farming.”

Robert Service’s Sept. 14, 2017 article for Science explores the potential of growing cotton with new properties (Note: A link has been removed),

You may have heard about smartphones and smart homes. But scientists are also designing smart clothes, textiles that can harvest energy, light up, detect pollution, and even communicate with the internet. The problem? Even when they work, these often chemically treated fabrics wear out rapidly over time. Now, researchers have figured out a way to “grow” some of these functions directly into cotton fibers. If the work holds, it could lead to stronger, lighter, and brighter textiles that don’t wear out.

Yet, as the new paper went to press today in Science, editors at the journal were made aware of mistakes in a figure in the supplemental material that prompted them to issue an Editorial Expression of Concern, at least until they receive clarification from the authors. Filipe Natalio, lead author and chemist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, says the mistakes were errors in the names of pigments used in control experiments, which he is working with the editors to fix.

That hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the work. “I like this paper a lot,” says Michael Strano, a chemical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The study, he says, lays out a new way to add new functions into plants without changing their genes through genetic engineering. Those approaches face steep regulatory hurdles for widespread use. “Assuming the methods claimed are correct, that’s a big advantage,” Strano says.

Sam Lemonick’s Sept. 14, 2017 article for forbes.com describes how the researchers introduced new properties (in this case, glowing colours) into the cotton plants,

His [Filipe Natalio] team of researchers in Israel, Germany, and Austria used sugar molecules to sneak new properties into cotton. Like a Trojan horse, Natalio says. They tested the method by tagging glucose with a fluorescent dye molecule that glows green when hit with the right kind of light.

They bathed cotton ovules—the part of the plant that makes the fibers—in the glucose. And just like flowers suck up dyed water in grade school experiments, the ovules absorbed the sugar solution and piped the tagged glucose molecules to their cells. As the fibers grew, they took on a yellowish tinge—and glowed bright green under ultraviolet light.

Glowing cotton wasn’t enough for Natalio. It took his group about six months to be sure they were actually delivering the fluorescent protein into the cotton cells and not just coating the fibers in it. Once they were certain, they decided to push the envelope with something very unnatural: magnets.

This time, Natalio’s team modified glucose with the rare earth metal dysprosium, making a molecule that acts like a magnet. And just like they did with the dye, the researchers fed it to cotton ovules and ended up with fibers with magnetic properties.

Both Service and Lemonwick note that the editor of the journal Science (where the research paper was published) Jeremy Berg has written an expression of editorial concern as of Sept. 14, 2017,

In the 15 September [2017] issue, Science published the Report “Biological fabrication of cellulose fibers with tailored properties” by F. Natalio et al. (1). After the issue went to press, we became aware of errors in the labeling and/or identification of the pigments used for the control experiments detailed in figs. S1 and S2 of the supplementary materials. Science is publishing this Editorial Expression of Concern to alert our readers to this information as we await full explanation and clarification from the authors.

The problem seems to be one of terminology (from the Lemonwick article),

… Filipe Natalio, lead author and chemist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, says the mistakes were errors in the names of pigments used in control experiments, which he is working with the editors to fix.

These things happen. Terminology and spelling aren’t always the same from one country to the next and it can result in confusion. I’m glad to see the discussion is being held openly.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Biological fabrication of cellulose fibers with tailored properties by Filipe Natalio, Regina Fuchs, Sidney R. Cohen, Gregory Leitus, Gerhard Fritz-Popovski, Oskar Paris, Michael Kappl, Hans-Jürgen Butt. Science 15 Sep 2017: Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1118-1122 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan5830

This paper is behind a paywall.

Nanotechnology-enabled warming textile being introduced at Berlin (Germany) Fashion Week July 4 – 7, 2017

Acanthurus GmbH, a Frankfurt-based (Germany) nanotechnology company announced its participation in Berlin Fashion Week’s (July 4 – 7, 2017) showcase for technology in fashion, Panorama Berlin  (according to Berlin Fashion Week’s Fashion Fair Highlights in July 2017 webpage; scroll down to Panorama Berlin subsection).

Here are more details about Acanthurus’ participation from a July 4, 2017 news item on innovationintextiles.com,

This week, Frankfurt-based nanotechnology company Acanthurus GmbH will introduce its innovative nanothermal warming textile technology nanogy at the Berlin FashionTech exhibition. An innovative warming technology was developed by Chinese market leader j-NOVA for the European market, under the brand name nanogy.

A July 3, 2017 nanogy press release, which originated the news item, offers another perspective on the story,

Too cold for your favorite dress? Leave your heavy coat at home and stay warm with ground-breaking nanotechnology instead.

Frankfurt-based nano technology company Acanthurus GmbH has brought an innovative warming technology developed by Chinese market leader j-NOVA© to the European market, under the brand name nanogy. “This will make freezing a thing of the past,” says Carsten Wortmann, founder and CEO of Acanthurus GmbH. The ultra-light, high-tech textiles can be integrated into any garment – including that go-to jacket everyone loves to wear on chilly days. All you need is a standard power bank to feel the warmth flow through your body, even on the coldest of days.

The innovative, lightweight technology is completely non-metallic, meaning it emits no radiation. The non-metallic nature of the technology allows it to be washed at any temperature, so there’s no need to worry about accidental spillages, whatever the circumstances. The technology is extremely thin and flexible and, as there is absolutely no metal included, can be scrunched or crumpled without damaging its function. This also means that the technology can be integrated into garments without any visible lines or hems, making it the optimal solution for fashion and textile companies alike.

nanogy measures an energy conversion rate of over 90%, making it one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly warming solutions ever developed. The technology is also recyclable, so consumers can dispose of it as they would any other garment.

“Our focus is not just to provide world class technology, but also to improve people’s lives without harming our environment. We call this a nanothermal experience, and our current use cases have only covered a fraction of potential opportunities,” says Jeni Odley, Director of Acanthurus GmbH. As expected for any modern tech company, users can even control the temperature of the textile with a mobile app, making the integration of nanogy a simplified, one-touch experience.

I wasn’t able to find much about j-Nova but there was this from the ISPO Munich 2017 exhibitor details webpage,

j-NOVA.WORKS Co., Ltd.

4-B302, No. 328 Creative Industry Park, Xinhu St., Suzhou Industrial Park
215123 Jiangsu Prov.
P  +49 69 130277-70
F  +49 69 130277-75

As the new generation of warming technology, we introduce our first series of intelligent textiles: j-NOVA intelligent warming textiles.

The intelligent textiles are based on complex nano-technology, and maintain a constant temperature whilst preserving a low energy conversion rate. The technology can achieve an efficiency level of up to 90%, depending on its power source.

The combination of advanced nano material and intelligent modules bring warmth from the fabric and garment itself, which can be scrunched up or washed without affecting its function.

j-NOVA.WORKS aims to balance technology with tradition, and to improve the relationship between nature and humans.

Acanthurus GmbH is the sole European Distributor.

So, j-NOVA is the company with the nanotechnology and Acanthurus represents their interests in Europe. I wish I could find out more about the technology but this is the best I’ve been able to accomplish in the time I have available.

Drip dry housing

This piece on new construction materials does have a nanotechnology aspect although it’s not made clear exactly how nanotechnology plays a role.

From a Dec. 28, 2016 news item on phys.org (Note: A link has been removed),

The construction industry is preparing to use textiles from the clothing and footwear industries. Gore-Tex-like membranes, which are usually found in weather-proof jackets and trekking shoes, are now being studied to build breathable, water-resistant walls. Tyvek is one such synthetic textile being used as a “raincoat” for homes.

You can find out more about Tyvek here.on the Dupont website.

A Dec. 21, 2016 press release by Chiara Cecchi for Youris ((European Research Media Center), which originated the news item, proceeds with more about textile-type construction materials,

Camping tents, which have been used for ages to protect against wind, ultra-violet rays and rain, have also inspired the modern construction industry, or “buildtech sector”. This new field of research focuses on the different fibres (animal-based such as wool or silk, plant-based such as linen and cotton and synthetic such as polyester and rayon) in order to develop technical or high-performance materials, thus improving the quality of construction, especially for buildings, dams, bridges, tunnels and roads. This is due to the fibres’ mechanical properties, such as lightness, strength, and also resistance to many factors like creep, deterioration by chemicals and pollutants in the air or rain.

“Textiles play an important role in the modernisation of infrastructure and in sustainable buildings”, explains Andrea Bassi, professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (DICA), Politecnico of Milan, “Nylon and fiberglass are mixed with traditional fibres to control thermal and acoustic insulation in walls, façades and roofs. Technological innovation in materials, which includes nanotechnologies [emphasis mine] combined with traditional textiles used in clothes, enables buildings and other constructions to be designed using textiles containing steel polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE). This gives the materials new antibacterial, antifungal and antimycotic properties in addition to being antistatic, sound-absorbing and water-resistant”.

Rooflys is another example. In this case, coated black woven textiles are placed under the roof to protect roof insulation from mould. These building textiles have also been tested for fire resistance, nail sealability, water and vapour impermeability, wind and UV resistance.

Photo: Production line at the co-operative enterprise CAVAC Biomatériaux, France. Natural fibres processed into a continuous mat (biofib) – Martin Ansell, BRE CICM, University of Bath, UK

In Spain three researchers from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) have developed a new panel made with textile waste. They claim that it can significantly enhance both the thermal and acoustic conditions of buildings, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the energy impact associated with the development of construction materials.

Besides textiles, innovative natural fibre composite materials are a parallel field of the research on insulators that can preserve indoor air quality. These bio-based materials, such as straw and hemp, can reduce the incidence of mould growth because they breathe. The breathability of materials refers to their ability to absorb and desorb moisture naturally”, says expert Finlay White from Modcell, who contributed to the construction of what they claim are the world’s first commercially available straw houses, “For example, highly insulated buildings with poor ventilation can build-up high levels of moisture in the air. If the moisture meets a cool surface it will condensate and producing mould, unless it is managed. Bio-based materials have the means to absorb moisture so that the risk of condensation is reduced, preventing the potential for mould growth”.

The Bristol-based green technology firm [Modcell] is collaborating with the European Isobio project, which is testing bio-based insulators which perform 20% better than conventional materials. “This would lead to a 5% total energy reduction over the lifecycle of a building”, explains Martin Ansell, from BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials (BRE CICM), University of Bath, UK, another partner of the project.

“Costs would also be reduced. We are evaluating the thermal and hygroscopic properties of a range of plant-derived by-products including hemp, jute, rape and straw fibres plus corn cob residues. Advanced sol-gel coatings are being deposited on these fibres to optimise these properties in order to produce highly insulating and breathable construction materials”, Ansell concludes.

You can find Modcell here.

Here’s another image, which I believe is a closeup of the processed fibre shown in the above,

Production line at the co-operative enterprise CAVAC Biomatériaux, France. Natural fibres processed into a continuous mat (biofib) – Martin Ansell, BRE CICM, University of Bath, UK [Note: This caption appears to be a copy of the caption for the previous image]