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Breakthroughs in advanced textiles: robotic glove, energy harvesting, solar-powered structures, camouflaging wearable, decomposing t-shirt

July 1st, 2020 / By: / Advanced Textiles

Robotic glove for hand paralysis

San Francisco, Calif.-based technology start-up Neofect has developed a robotic glove to help patients suffering from paralysis. The product prototype, Neomano, is a smart glove designed for patient rehabilitation of the hand following a stroke, spinal cord injury or other condition that limits a patient’s ability to use his or her hands. The device supports the wearer’s ability to grip objects with the press of a button. A wireless, remote-controlled motor contracts the fingers to help the wearer pick up a glass of water, turn a doorknob or use a toothbrush. The grip becomes tighter the longer the button is held down and the glove lets go when the release button is pressed. Photo: Neofect.

Flexible device uses the body’s heat energy

North Carolina State University (NCSU) engineers have demonstrated a flexible device that harvests heat energy from the human body to monitor health. The flexible thermoelectric generators (TEGs) use the body’s heat energy to power wearable devices to measure glucose, heart rate and blood oxygen. The technology has the potential to create monitoring devices that never need to have their batteries recharged. Potentially, manufacturers could stop developing new flexible thermoelectric materials because the device incorporates the same semiconductor elements found in rigid devices. The research was published online Jan. 30, 2020, in Applied Energy. Photo: Mehmet Ozturk, NCSU.

U.S. Air Force chooses Pvilion solar-powered structures

Solar-powered fabric provider Pvilion, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research contract by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to continue its development of rapidly deployable, solar-powered structures. The USAF evaluated the products the company presented for cost, complexity, sustainability, required manual labor and energy independence, all with the goal of maximizing mission-objective readiness. According to Pvilion, its solar technology is significantly lighter and more adaptable than traditional solar options, and it’s integrated entirely into a system already being installed, such as a tent, shade canopy or hangar. With fully integrated photovoltaic fabric panels, the company’s structures provide power, shelter, lighting and climate control. Photo: Pvilion.

Wearable device camouflages body heat

A research team with the University of California San Diego has developed a wearable technology that can block heat-detecting sensors such as night vision goggles, even when the ambient temperature changes—a feat that current technology can’t match. The device, which is at the proof-of-concept stage, has a surface that quickly cools down or heats up to match ambient temperatures, camouflaging the wearer’s body heat, while the inside remains at the same temperature as human skin. The wireless device can be embedded into fabric and, as the technology is improved, could eventually be incorporated into a whole jacket. The researchers detailed their work in Advanced Functional Materials. Photo: University of California San Diego. 

Decomposing T-shirt

Tech-based clothing company Vollebak has launched a T-shirt made entirely from wood pulp and algae. The company, based in the U.K., says the shirt will break down in soil or a composter within three months. The wood is first chipped and pulped. It is then turned into fiber, then yarn, and finally into fabric for the shirt. Instead of using dye, the shirt maintains the raw color of the tree pulp. The carotenoids and chlorophylls in algae may add reds, oranges, bright blues and purples to other garments. The natural pigments within algae oxidize, which means the shirt changes color and fades over time. Photo: Vollebak.