Wearable Smart Materials: Current Applications
Clothes have always been one of the most essential things that a person seeks to own. It is a means to express ourselves and a protective cover that protects us against harsh environmental conditions. With the advancement in technology and science, the world has witnessed a drastic change in lifestyles, and clothes cannot remain untouched in this process. Smart Clothes are one such amalgamation of science and technology that the world is witnessing in this evolving century.
These clothes are designed to protect us from harsh climates, keep regular track of the wearer’s health, and allow users to access various information about our surroundings. It is indeed a life-changing invention. To understand smart clothes, it is imperative to know the underlying process involved in their making.
What Are Smart Clothes?
Smart clothes, as discussed earlier, are clothes that protect from external environmental conditions. However, it can also sense any external stimuli from any source, such as mechanical, magnetic, thermal, chemical, etc. For instance, a Thermotron is a cloth whose fabric reacts to sunlight and converts light energy into heat energy.
Classification Of Smart Clothes
Smart clothes are classified into several categories: passive smart textile, active smart textile, and ultra smart textile.
Passive Smart Textile
These are the first generation of smart clothes that do not respond to external stimuli. For example, if you are using an insulating coat, it will maintain the same temperature inside the clothes irrespective of the temperature changes on the outside.
Active Smart Textile
Unlike passive smart textiles, these textiles can sense your surroundings and react accordingly. It has actuators that help smart clothes regulate their functionalities. Active smart textiles are present in hydrophilic clothes; they can store heat, keep the chameleon effect, resist water, and absorb vapors from the atmosphere.
Ultra Smart Textile
Ultra smart textiles cannot just sense and react to any external stimuli but can also adapt according to those stimuli. These smart textiles, equipped with microcomputers, are like an electronic brain that can sense, react and then adapt if the same stimuli persist. Examples of ultra-smart clothes are musical jackets and wearable computers.
How Are Smart Clothes Made?
This is a question that people have in their minds. Everyone wonders how such a level of technology can be achieved in clothing, and if it did, what are the materials that constitute smart clothes. Most materials that constitute smart clothes can sense, interact and communicate with the surroundings. Some of these materials are –
- Metal fibers – These fibers are obtained from very thin metal and are then woven and knitted into textile. These fibers are used to detect electric signals, such as ECG signals.
- Conductive inks – Conductive inks are applied over smart clothes to connect their components.
- Optical fibers – Optical fibers are used in clothes to detect any stress and strain in the garment. These clothes are known to transmit data signals and light for optical sensing.
- Nanoparticles – It is added to clothes to enhance their functionality and performance. Moreover, it makes clothes durable and antibacterial, water-resistant, and indices self-cleaning in them.
- Shape Memory Alloy – Alloys such as nickel-titanium and cuprous zinc can return to their original shape after facing any external strain, making them suitable for smart clothes, which are meant to be more durable than regular clothes.
- Inherently Conductive Polymers – These materials are added to clothes to induce sensing and actuation properties in them.
- Electrically Conductive Textiles – Electrically Conductive Textiles are added to smart clothes to enhance their electrical conductivity.
- Chromic Materials – Chromic material can impart color-changing properties in clothes. These materials respond to various stimuli such as heat, light, electricity, and pressure.
- Phase Change Materials – Smart clothes can adapt to various climates and change temperatures due to phase change materials in them.
Applications Of Smart Clothes
Smart clothes find their application in various segments such as health, sports, military, entertainment, and many more.
Wearable monitoring systems enable constant monitoring of all the vital organs of our body and prevent any mishappening. These clothes are equipped with technology smart enough to detect ECG signals, oxygen levels and keep track of a person’s physical activities. Moreover, the Bluetooth devices in these clothes can transmit data to your devices and keep you updated.
Moreover, smart clothes such as life belts and life jackets can be worn by patients suffering from critical illnesses. These belts constantly monitor all the activities in the affected region and assist medical personnel in offering better treatment.
Smart clothes assist military personnel in withstanding extreme climatic conditions. It enables them to monitor the severity of any injuries they may inflict and assist them in monitoring any hazardous developments around them,, such as toxic gasses.
Moreover, the communication system embedded in these clothes allows them to better communicate and monitor the situation effectively.
Several smart clothes are made up of chromic materials, enabling them to change colors, making them ideal for performers. The optic fiber present in these clothes allows them to emit light and startle the audience with dazzling effects.
Smart clothes enable sportspersons to monitor their performance. It enables them to simultaneously monitor their heartbeat, oxygen levels, and body temperature. Moreover, several sensors in these clothes enable them to maintain a database of all their practice sessions, tracking their daily progress. Along with these, it also alerts the user of any injury that they might have incurred during the practice sessions.
Examples Of Smart Clothes
Using the materials discussed earlier, numerous companies have manufactured smart clothes such as:
This smart cloth is known to absorb and emit light and convert light into heat energy. Although the fabric is breathable, it does not allow heat to escape.
Stone Island is a jacked equipped with liquid crystal heat-sensitive coating, which allows it to sense and give information about the surroundings. This jacket changes its color from dark to light shade according to the external temperature.
This cloth offers three warming levels, activated through a button. A polar seal is a light, flexible, and breathable cloth ideal for outdoor activities. Moreover, this cloth is durable enough to withstand alpine conditions.
It is a cap, which has headsets fitted inside it. Zerol is a water-resistant cap, making it ideal for all weather conditions.
Lumo run is a garment worn by sportspersons. It has motion sensors that enable an overall analysis of the athlete’s performance and record this data to track their progress.
The AIO sleeve can only be worn in one hand and monitors the user’s health all day long. Moreover, it can also be used to play music during workouts.
Like Harry Potter’s cloak, this cloak also conceals its user completely. Using nanoparticles that can reflect light and a set of cameras on the back, this cloth allows a person to be completely invisible.
The list of smart clothes doesn’t end here, there are a lot of smart clothes that scientists around the world have developed, and many are still in the testing phase. However, it is very difficult for a retailer to source these types of clothes. This is where Fashinza can help them. Fashinza is a B2B apparel manufacturing platform that helps clothing brands to manufacture their collections by connecting them with suppliers.