Scientists from Pennsylvania State University claim to have developed on ingenious self-healing fabric that may someday become the future of protective clothing. Imagine you will never have to use the needle to fix your torn clothes. This technology will revolutionize the clothing industry. All that the scientists have to do, to make this self-healing material a reality, researchers apply a surprisingly simple process: dipping torn clothes in certain special liquids.
Professor Melik C.Demirel says fashion designers often use natural fibers made of silk or wool to create clothes, but these materials are expensive and not self-mending. This led scientists to develop their own coating technology, which still makes use of conventional textiles. This is how they plan to make it work, the material or clothing item is dipped in a sequence of liquids to produce layers of new material, forming a polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer coating.
The coating can be created from a yeast and bacteria mixture and is made up of negatively and positively charged polymers similar to the ones found in nail proteins and human hair as well as proteins in squid teeth rings. Although, scientists from Penn State University dip the entire clothing material into the special liquid, it can also be spot applied. But, they also stated that you can search for a tear in your clothes, apply a few drops of the liquid over it, add warm water and hold the material for a while. After a moment, the torn spot should begin to heal itself. During the layering, enzymes can become incorporated into the coating.
Demirel and his colleagues currently use urease, which is an enzyme that breaks urea into carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia. Although, for commercial use, the coating can be adjusted with enzymes that matched the targeted chemical or material. Demirel says that for enzymes with chemical or biological effects, scientists can use a condensed enzyme with self-healing properties that degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin.
There are many toxic substance that the human skin can absorb. For instance, organophosphates or herbisides are often absorbed by the farmers, these are absorbed through the skin and are potentially fatal. Both of these substance are also known to be used as nerve agents. But this can actually be prevented with a self healing garment. Clothing item with a self-healing material that contains organophosphate hydrolase, which has known properties, to break down the toxic enzyme, will potentially limit the exposure to these harmful substance. Likewise, there is a squid ring teeth named polymer which can heal itself in the presence of water, so washing the clothes in this case will repair the defects in the coating, making then reusable.
“Even thin, they increase the overall strength of the material,” says Demirel. Which will also increase the longevity of clothes because the coatings can blend in the clothing enough not to be noticed in daily wear. This can even help stonewall accidents like accidental chemical releases, in factories where the use of chemical is necessary and have toxic environments. Protective clothing enhanced with the proper enzyme combination can help them achieve this goal. These coatings could also be used in medical meshes, which could help minimize infections. If this goes through, we can say goodbye to the old problem of torn clothes. This is it for now, stay tuned for further updates.