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Advances in Technology: Smart & Engineered Textiles Jose A. Gonzalez Protective Clothing Research Group Department of Human Ecology University of Alberta Backstrap-weaving Cotton hand-picking Hand spinning They have come a long way! Where would you like to go today? Content New paradigm

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advances in technology smart engineered textiles

Advances in Technology: Smart & Engineered Textiles

Jose A. Gonzalez

Protective Clothing Research Group

Department of Human Ecology

University of Alberta



Cotton hand-picking

Hand spinning

They have come a long way!

  • New paradigm
  • Textiles materials for every need
  • Engineered textile solutions
  • Smart technology
  • Implications for research
  • What lies ahead?
new paradigm
New Paradigm
  • Since the 19th Century, revolutionary changes have been occurring at an unprecedented rate in science and technology with a profound impact on our lives
  • Inventions of ICs, computers, the Internet, discovery and complete mapping of the human genome, and many more have transformed the entire world
  • We have also learnt a lot from nature!
The technology has progressed so that manufactured fibers and their products surpass natural fibers in many aspects

Textiles can now be designed for specialized applications

Biological routes for synthesizing polymers or textile processing represent an environmentally friendly, sustainable way of utilizing natural resources

Solid foundations of scientific understanding have been laid to guide the improved usage and processing technology of natural fibers and the manufacturing of synthetic fibers

textiles materials for every need
Optimized moisture management

Better heat flow control

Improved thermal insulation


High performance in hazard protection

Environmental friendly

Increased abrasion resistance

Health control and healing aid

Body control

Easy care

High aesthetic appeal

Enhanced handle

High/low visibility

Textiles Materials for Every Need

Appearance Retention





Sustainable Resource

No Environmental Harm

Safe Human Use

Engineered/Smart Textile Materials

engineered textiles
Engineered Textiles
  • Engineered textiles are materials that are developed and/or designed for a special need or application where a very high performance is required
  • Engineered textiles may combine fabrics with glass, ceramics, metal, or carbon to produce lightweight hybrids with incredible properties. Sophisticated finishes, such as silicone coatings and holographic laminates, transform color, texture, and even form.
smart technology
Smart Technology
  • We are inspired to mimic nature in order to create clothing materials with higher levels of functions and smartness
  • Cloning silk fibers was a first step
  • Can the skin -a smart material- be mimicked?
    • The skin has sensors that can detect pressure, pain, ambient conditions,etc. and can intelligently function with environmental stimuli
Smart/interactive textiles (SIT) are materials and structures that sense and react to environmental conditions or stimuli, such as those from mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, magnetic or other sources.
  • SIT are no longer a science-fiction fantasy. For example, there are in the market self-cleaning carpets, memory-shaped and environment-responsive textiles, and anti-insomniac micro-fibers.

Passive smart materials, which can only sense the environmental condition or stimuli,

    • Active smart materials, which sense and react to the condition or stimuli,
    • Very smart materials, which can sense, react and adapt themselves accordingly, and
    • Intelligent materials, which are those capable of responding or activated to perform a function in a manual or pre-programmed manner
  • How does a smart material work?
  • According to the manner of reaction, SIT can be divided into:

Trigger or Stimuli

The sensors provide a nerve system to detect signals



The processor analyzes and evaluates the signals


The actuators act upon the detected and evaluated signal either directly or from a central control unit

Response or Action


areas of r d
Areas of R & D
  • For sensors - actuators:
    • photo-sensitive materials
    • fibre optics
    • conductive polymers
    • thermal sensitive materials
    • shape memory materials
    • intelligent coating materials
    • chemical responsive materials
    • micro-capsules
    • micro- and nano-materials
areas of r d 2
Areas of R & D (2)
  • For signal transmission, processing and control:
    • neural networks and control systems
    • cognition theory and systems
  • For integrated processes and products:
    • wearable electronics and photonics
    • adaptive and responsive structures
    • bio-mimics
    • tissue engineering
    • chemical/drug releasing
fiber focus

Today, the focus is on specialty products engineered for specific end-uses and on creative ways to market these products

Fiber Focus

Lastol, a new comfort stretch fiber is blended in cotton shirts and blouses, garment-washed denims, casual shirts, etc. for improved processing efficiencies with cotton feel and easy care

Microdenier nylons are soft and sumptuous with a dull matte appearance for a natural look

Copper fibers have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Copper is gradually absorbed upon direct contact with the skin, improves blood circulation, increases energy and has anti-arthritic properties

HolofiberTM is a responsive textile that works with the body’s energy system to increase oxygen levels, accelerate muscle recovery and build strength in the body

Copolymers of polyester provide fabrics with a soft hand, dimensional stability, moisture transportability, ease of dyeing and colorfastness

A textured yarn can achieve multicolor effects in one dye bath. It is a combination of two modified nylons 6,6. One nylon only accepts acid dyes and rejects cationic ones; the other one acts the opposite way

reflective technology
Reflective Technology

A technology has been created to convert proprietary materials into miniature reflectors that, when imbedded into fabric by the millions, reflect oncoming light, such as automobile headlights, in a way that illuminates the full silhouette of a person, bicycle or any other object.

The reflectors are smaller than a grain of sand and finer than a human hair. They can be imbedded into the weave of almost any fabric. The end result is a fabric that remains soft to the touch and retains its function and fashion. During the day, the treated fabrics are indistinguishable from untreated fabrics.

thermal performance enhancing fabric
Thermal PerformanceEnhancing Fabric

Hydroweave® provides extraordinary protection against heat, actively cooling the wearer through evaporation, and helping to maintain the core body temperature in high-heat environments

It is a three-layer design that combines special hydrophilic and hydrophobic fibers into a fibrous batting core. The batting is sandwiched between a breathable outer shell fabric and a thermally conductive, inner lining

flash dried fabrics
Flash Dried Fabrics

3XDRY® finishing technology was developed to provide a treatment that retains water resistance on the face of a fabric and increases wicking on the back. The two functions are truly separated within the fabric, which remains highly breathable.

3XDRY® uses a special process to apply a hydrophilic finish on the back that wicks perspiration away from the body, spreading it over the fabric, and evaporating it quickly on the face. It also has a hydrophobic finish that repels water and dirt.

The fabric dries six to eight times faster than untreated fabric. 3XDRY ® also incorporates a hygienic treatment to control odor.

protective flex
Protective Flex

The new “smart response” fiber is proving to enhance passenger safety because of its unique energy-management properties.

Securus™ is the first in a new category of polyester copolymer fibers being developed for managed-load applications. It combines polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which provides restraining properties, and polycaprolactone (PCL), which provides flexibility and cushioning

During a collision, Securus fiber seat belts protect the passenger in a three-step process: holding the passenger securely in place; elongating and cushioning the body as it absorbs the energy of its forward motion; and restraining and limiting that motion.

thermal sensitivity
Thermal Sensitivity

SmartSkin™ hydrogel is a new technology involving a hydrophilic/hydrophobic copolymer, which is embedded in an open-cell foam layer bonded to the inside of a closed-cell neoprene layer in a composite wet suit fabric with nylon or nylon/Lycra® outer and inner layers.

SmartSkin absorbs cold water that has flushed into the suit and expands to close openings at the hands, feet and neck, preventing more water from entering. Water trapped inside the suit heats up upon body contact. If the water warms up past a transition temperature determined by the proportion of hydrophilic to hydrophobic components, the hydrogel releases water and contracts, allowing more water to flush through the suit. This passive system constantly regulates the internal temperature — no batteries or mechanical action are needed.

phase change materials
Phase Change Materials

Outlast® temperature-regulating technology effectively recycles body heat, keeping the wearer’s skin temperature within a comfortable range.

Outlast was first developed for use in astronaut uniforms and as a protection for instruments against the severe temperature changes in outer space. The technology is now used in apparel, footwear, equipment and linens.

Outlast is a paraffin wax compound that is micro-encapsulated into thousands of miniscule, impenetrable, hard shells. It recycles body heat by absorbing, storing, distributing and releasing heat on a continuous basis, keeping the wearer’s skin temperature within a comfortable range.

nano technology
Nano-particles are permanently attached to cotton or synthetic fibers. The change occurs at the molecular level, and the particles can be configured to imbue the fabric with various attributes. Nano-technology combines the performance characteristics associated with synthetics with the hand and feel of cotton

Nano-fibers 1/1000 the size of a typical cotton fiber are attached to the individual fibers. The changes to the fibers are undetectable and do not affect the natural hand and breathability of the fabric

Nano-fibers cause liquids to roll off

Nano-fibers attached to cotton fibers

Nano Technology
wearable technology
Wearable Technology

Clothing is currently supposed to have more functions than just certain climatic protection and good look. These functions can be referred to wearing and durability properties.

A revolutionary new property of clothing is to exchange information.Clothing is now capable of recording, analyzing, storing, sending and displaying data, which is a new dimension if intelligent systems. Clothing can extend the user’s senses, augment the view of reality and provide useful information anytime and anywhere the user goes.

  • Application fields are:
  • Working: displaying helpful data, connecting to the internet or to other people
  • Medicine: monitoring health parameters
  • Security: detecting danger, calling for help
microbes begone
Microbes Begone!

An anti-microbial technology has been developed by which it embeds AgION™, a silver-based inorganic zeolite, in a solution-dyed polyester Fossfibre® bicomponent fiber. Fossfibre with AgION is suitable for all textile applications in which anti-microbial protection is desired.

The bicomponent fibers in Fossfibre are specially designed so that AgION is found only on the sheath, providing controlled release for optimum exposure to the destructive bacteria.

The silver ions from the ceramic compound are released at a slow and steady rate. Ambient moisture in the air causes low-level release that effectively maintains an anti-microbial surface. As the humidity increases and the environment becomes ideal for bacteria growth, more silver is released.

bio mimics

Fibers have been developed that can quickly change their color, hue, depth of shade or optical transparency by application of an electrical or magnetic field could have applications in coatings,

additives or stand alone fibers.

Varying the electrical or magnetic field changes the optical properties of certain oligomeric and molecular moieties by altering their absorption coefficients in the visible spectrum as a result of changes in their molecular structure.

The change in color is due to the absence of specific wavelengths of light; it varies due to structural changes with the application of an electromagnetic field.

tissue engineering
Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering uses living cells and their extracellular components with textile-based biomaterial scaffolds to develop biological tissues for human body repair. The scaffolds provide support for cellular attachment and subsequent controlled proliferation into predefined tissue shapes.

Such an engineering approach would solve the severe shortage problem associated with organ transplants. Textile-based scaffolds have been used for such tissue engineering purposes. The most frequently used textile-based scaffolds are non-woven structures, preferably of biodegradable materials, because then there is no permanent foreign-body tissue reaction toward the scaffolds and, over time, there is more volume space into which the engineered

tissue can grow.

implications for research
Implications for Research
  • Protective textile materials benefit from the development of a myriad of high-performance, thermal-stable fibers, and woven composites (passive systems)
  • Protective clothing can greatly improve performance by adding smart/interactive features
  • Smart thermal protective clothing:
    • Detection of vital signals
    • Global Positioning System (GPS)
    • Wireless, hands-free communication
    • Cooling – warming system
    • Incorporated warning signaling

3-layer interlock woven structure

air gaps

5-layer interlock woven structure

Multi-layered woven structures can increase thermal and fire protection by adding controlled air gaps. They can be tailored to provide other features such as an anti-static system, and physiological comfort

In a structured layered system, smart features may be added and supported by the matrix formed

detection of vital signals
Detection of Vital Signals

Sensatex is developing a SmartShirt™ System specifically for the protection of public safety personnel, namely firefighters, police officers, and rescue teams. Used in conjunction with a wireless-enabled radio system, the SmartShirt™ can monitor the health and safety of public safety personnel/victims trapped in a building or underneath rubble with the ability to detect the exact location of victims through positioning capability. In addition to monitoring vital signs, the system can detect the extent of falls, and the presence of hazardous gases; it also offers two-way voice communication

global positioning system gps
Global Positioning System (GPS)

Textiles integrated with sensory devices driven by a GPS can detect a user’s exact location anytime and in any weather. Interactive electronic textiles with integratedGPS enhance safety by quickly locating the wearer and allowing the suit to be heated. GPS can provide added safety for firefighters and emergency personnel by facilitating offsite monitoring of vitals

wireless hands free communication
Wireless, hands-free communication

Fabric area networks (FANs) enable electronic devices to exchange digital information, power, and control signals within the user’s personal space and remote locations. FANs use wireless RF communication links using currents measuring one nanoamp; these currents can transmit data at speed equivalent to a 2400-baud modem

cooling warming system
Cooling – Warming System

A new high-tech vest has been developed to help keep soldiers, firefighters, etc. alive in the searing temperatures of deserts, mines and major fires. The vest uses a personal cooling system (PCS), which is based on heat pipe technology which works by collecting body heat through vapor filled cavities in a vest worn on the body. The heat is then transferred via a flexible heat pipe to the atmosphere with the help of an evaporative cooling heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is similar in principle to a bush fridge where a cold cloth is put over a container and the temperature drop caused by evaporation keeps the food cool. It is designed to be worn by personnel underneath NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) clothing, body armor and other protective clothing.

warning signaling
Warning Signaling

A combination of sensors and small flexible light emitting displays (FLED) can receive and respond to stimuli from the body, enabling a warning signal to be displayed or sent. The sensors can monitor EKG, heart rate, respiration, temperature, and pulse oximetry readings. If vital signals were below critical values, a FLED would automatically display, for example, a flashing red light, and a wireless communication system could send a distress signal to a remote location.

what lies ahead
What Lies Ahead?
  • The range and variety of high performance textiles that have been developed to meet present and future requirements are now considerable
  • Textile materials are now combined, modified and tailored in ways far beyond the performance limit of fibers drawn from the silkworm cocoon, grown in the fields, or spun from the fleece of animals
  • And the future promises even more!
  • What new capacities should we expect as a result of future developments in smart/interactive textiles?

The new capability of tera scale takes us three orders of magnitude beyond the present general-purpose and generally accessible computing capabilities. The technology of nano scale takes us three orders of magnitude below the size of most of today’s human-made devices

    • It allows to arrange molecules inexpensively in most of the ways permitted by physical laws
    • It lets make supercomputers that fit on the head of a fiber, and fleets of medical nano-robots smaller than a human cell to eliminate cancers, infections, clogged arteries
  • They should include tera and nano scale magnitudes, complexity, cognition and holism
Fibers are relentlessly replacing traditional materials in many more applications. From super-absorbent diapers, to artificial organs, to construction materials for moon-based space stations
  • Heat generating/storing fibers/fabrics are now being used in skiwear, shoes, helmets, etc
  • Fabrics and composites integrated with optical fibers sensors are used to monitor bridges and buildings
  • Garments integrated with sensors and motherboards can detect and transmit injury and health information of the wearer
Clothing with its own senses and brain are integrated with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and mobile phone technology to provide the position of the wearer and directions
  • Biological tissues and organs, like ears and noses, are grown from textile scaffolds made from bio-degradable fibers
  • Integrated with nano-materials, textiles are imparted with very high energy absorption capacity and other functions such as stain proofing, abrasion resistance, light emission, etc.