Textiles are a crucial part of our lives, and there has never been a greater desire for intelligent materials such as textiles that can be seamlessly mixed with technology.
Clothing is one of the three basic human needs. From primitive age, textile is used for clothing which was extended to household and domestic purpose with progressive civilization. Thousands of years ago textile is used in different forms such as sail cloth, tent, protective garments, ropes etc., basically these were all technical textiles and were mainly used for their technical performance.
A smart textile 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.
What is a smart textile?
Smart textiles, also known as electronic textiles (e-textiles), include electronic components and perform some functions. Smart fabrics are intelligent systems that can observe or communicate ambient circumstances and detect and process the wearer’s state. They use electrical, thermal, mechanical, chemical, magnetic, and other inputs and outputs.
The term “smart material” was coined for the first time in 1989 in Japan. The first textile material to be labeled as a smart textile was silk thread with a memory effect. The discovery of shape-memory materials in the 1960s and intelligent polymeric gels in the 1970s, on the other hand, was widely regarded as the birth of actual smart materials. Intelligent materials in textiles were not launched in the market until the late 1990s. Today, smart fabrics are way more complex, sometimes labeled as wearable computers.
Smart or intelligent textiles are created in collaboration with various research disciplines such as nanotechnology, materials science, garment design, electronics, and computer engineering.
Globally, the market for smart textiles is expanding and has a lot of promise.
The market proportion of e-textiles consumption compared to traditional fabrics is growing in developing nations. The worldwide smart fabrics market will grow from $943 million in 2015 to $5369 million by 2022. Because of the multiple applications in different sectors, the global innovative fabrics market is prospering and proliferating.
What are the types of smart textiles?
There are several categories for smart textiles in the literature. But one of the most widely accepted is the classification based on the aesthetic and performance functions of the garments.
Aesthetic smart textiles
Because of its capacity to light up and change color, intelligent aesthetic fabrics are used in the fashion industry. Light-emitting clothing and bright gowns are typical and commercial applications for aesthetic, smart textiles.
Performance smart textiles
Smart textiles are categorized into three types based on their performance: passive, active, and ultra smart.
Passive intelligent textiles are the initial generation of smart textiles that detect external circumstances, such as UV-protective clothing, conductive fibers, and so on. Because they are merely sensors, passive smart textiles can only perceive their surroundings.
A cooling cloth, for example, may assist in controlling body temperature but does not actively produce coolness. Because of the structure of the fabric, it simply aids in the faster evaporation of liquid. The same is valid for clothing and other items that include UV protection, anti-microbial, and anti-static features.
Active smart textiles adapt and modify their functioning in reaction to changes in the external environment or human input, such as motion or weather. These fabrics can alter their shape, store and control heat, and perform other functions.
While passive textiles depend on their structure, active fabrics rely on electricity to support actuators and sensors. These actuators and sensors enable the intelligent material to detect touch and temperature and analyze and interpret a wide range of environmental data.
Ultra smart fabrics
Ultra smart fabrics perceive, react, and adapt to environmental situations the same way as active smart textiles do, but they go a step further. Ultra smart textiles are materials that detect, respond, monitor, and adapt to stimuli or environmental conditions such as thermal, mechanical, chemical, magnetic, or other sources.
How are smart textiles used in fashion?
Aesthetic smart fabrics may light up and change color, feature an interactive aspect, or alter in response to their surroundings. Fashion designers have already embraced the new technology, designing whole collections made of intelligent fabrics.
For example, the company CuteCircuit develops all kinds of garments to allow self-expression. An example of this is The Mirror Handbag, which is constructed of ultralightweight aerospace aluminum and laser-etched acrylic mirror, which allows the light from the white LEDs to shine through and produce spectacular animations as display messages and Tweets.
With an emphasis on function above fashion, performance-enhancing innovative fabrics provide the user a one-of-a-kind experience based on their intended application. This includes regulating body temperature, lowering wind and water resistance, protecting against radiation, and monitoring bodily functions, such as heart rate or muscle exertion.
To provide sun-protective qualities, passive materials such as optical brighteners and UV absorbers are added to fibers. When combined with other technological components, these materials may successfully prevent skin damage and other associated problems caused by sun exposure.
A nickel-titanium alloy, used in protective gear against fire and high temperatures and gives variable degrees of protection depending on temperature, is an example of a shape memory alloy used in textiles.
And businesses like WearableX and Athos have paved the way for high-performance sports apparel that provides athletes with added utility.
E-textiles may also be utilized to make the most of external devices; Google’s Jacquard is a prime example of this. Jacquard is a Google-created wearable technology that has been incorporated into clothes and accessories.
Google and Levi’s partnered to create a smart jacket. The capacitive touch grid that serves as the jacket’s user interface is woven right into the fabric and can be used to answer calls, play music, snap photographs, and receive directions with a single motion. And e-textiles don’t simply make gadgets simpler to operate; they also save battery power.
Smart textiles examples in products today
Nadi X yoga pants – Wearable X
Wearable X debuted its first direct-to-consumer product, Nadi X, a line of activated yoga clothes, in May 2017.
Yoga may be practiced on your terms with the Nadi X experience. Its proprietary technology, which includes integrated sensors and haptic feedback (vibration), assists you in improving your yoga practice. Nadi X is great for before and after workouts at home or on the move.
SoundShirt – CuteCircuit
CuteCircuit released the breakthrough SoundShirt in 2016. This garment uses integrated haptics to enable a deaf person to sense music. The SoundShirt PRO is similar to a HugShirt, except it has more haptic actuators and can be used for music, hugs, gaming, and access to live performances at venues with a QPRO system. Because of the added haptic actuation modules, the SoundShirt delivers more immersive augmented and virtual reality experiences.
Mercury Intelligent heated jacket – Ministry of supply
Mercury dials in your perfect temperature in real-time, thanks to sophisticated lightweight heating components and revolutionary stretch insulation.
An intelligent thermostat responds to your body and surroundings by managing three lightweight, flexible carbon fiber heating components. Mercury is designed to protect you from repelling wind, snow, water, and odors–whatever your travels throw at you.
Women’s leggings – Athos
The Athos’s Core snaps into your Athos garments to gather and analyze data from the garment’s sensors before sending it through Bluetooth to your mobile app.
Monitor the activity of the primary lower-body muscular groups: inner quadrant, outer quadrant, hamstrings, and glutes. Real-time biometric monitoring of muscle activity, heart rate, calorie expenditure, and active time vs. rest time is available. The sensors integrated into the garment scan biosignals and send them directly to your smartphone app, revealing which muscles are firing and working hard.
Smart socks – Sensoria
Sensoria provides a comprehensive line of smart clothes for a variety of activities. Smart socks, mainly, can detect cadence, foot landing, and impact forces.
Sensoria’s socks include patented 100 percent textile sensors. They are coupled with a Bluetooth detachable core that improves precision in step counting, speed, calories, altitude, and distance monitoring. Sensoria may assist runners in identifying injury-prone running techniques (heel striking, ball striking, and so on) and then uses a mobile app to train the runner in real-time through auditory cues.
Smart Shirts – Hexoskin
Textile sensors incorporated in comfortable clothes for accurate and continuous cardiac, respiratory, and activity monitoring comprise the Hexoskin Smart Garments. With the leading Hexoskin Connected Health Platform, Hexoskin users can see, report, and analyze their data.
Hexoskin provides information on your health status, sleep, and personal daily activities. Hexoskin Smart Shirts are also utilized in cardiac, respiratory, activity, stress, cognitive, and sleep research and projects.
Commuter X Jacquard by Google – Levi’s
Google teamed with Levi’s to produce and release the Levi’s Commuter X Jacquard By Google, a Bluetooth-enabled jacket.
It is engineered for mobility, city-optimized. It’s the updated version of the original Trucker Jacket, incorporating careful design features for active users in the city. This ground-breaking garment combines 150 years of Levi’s denim creativity and Google engineering, with conductive Jacquard thread woven in. You can control music, screen phone calls, and obtain directions with a touch of the cuff.
UA Recover Clothing
UA RECOVER is Under Armour's clothing line that absorbs heat from the human body and then reflects the heat back onto the wearer's skin as far infrared light. This is especially useful to athletes because far infrared light encourages better muscle recovery and enhances relaxation.
Designed and made in France, Neviano's swimsuits are stylish and integrated with a UV sensor. The sensor is about half the size of an adult's thumb, waterproof, and connects to the wearer's iOS or Android device. It sends alerts when UV levels are high to remind you to apply more sunscreen.