Monday, 14 December 2009

Smart and Intelligent Textiles

Intelligent textiles represent the next generation of fibres, fabrics and articles produced from them. They can be describes as textile materials that think for themselves, for example through the incorporation of electronic devices or smart materials. Many intelligent textiles already feature in advanced types of clothing, principally for protection and safety and for added fashion or convenience. Intelligent textiles provide evidence of the potential still to be realised not onlyin the textiles industry but all within cosmetic application to the face. moreover it is anticipated that many of the future developments will be the result of the active collaboration between people from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines: engineering, science, design, process development, and business and marketing.

Definition and Classification of Smart Textiles
Smart textiles are defined as textiles that can sense an react to environmental conditions or stimuli from mechanical, thermal, electric or magnetic sources. According to functional activity smart textiles can be classified in three categories:

Passive Smart Textiles: the first generations of smart textiles which can only sense environmental conditions or stimulus are called Passive Smart Textiles
Active Smart Textiles: The second generation has both actuators and sensors. The actuators act upon the detected signal either directly or from a central control unit. Active smart textiles are shape memory, chameleonic, water resistant, and vapor permeable (hydrophilic / non porous), heat storage, thermo regulated, vapour absorbing, heat evolving fabric and electrically heated suits.

Ultra Smart Textiles: Very smart textiles are the third generation of smart textiles which can sense, react and adopt themselves to environmental conditions or stimuli. A very smart or intelligent textile essentially consists of a unit, which works like the brain, with cognition, reasoning and activating capacities.

New/ Smart materials and fibres used in textiles

Shape Memory Materials
There are two types of Shape Memory Materials. The first classes materials stable at two or more temperature states. In these different temperature states, they have the potential to assume different shapes, when their transformation temperatures have been reached. For clothing applications, the desirable temperatures for the shape memory effect to be triggered will be near body temperature. This technology has been pioneered by the UK Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency. The other types of shape memory materials are electroactive polymers, which change shape in response to electrical stimuli.

Chromic Materials
Other types of intelligent textiles are those which change their colour reversibly according to external environmental conditions, for this reason they are called chameleon fibres. Chromic materials are the general term referring to materials which radiate the colour, erase the colour, or just change it because its induction caused by external stimulus, as 'Chromix' is a suffix that means colour. Therefore we can classify chromic materials depending on the stimulus affecting them (in bold are indicated those used in textiles):

Photochromic: external stimulus is light
Thermochromic: external stimulus is heat
Electrochromic: external stimulus is electricity
Piezochromic: external stimulus is pressure
Solvatechromic: external stimulus is liquid or gas

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