With Vogue’s much-storied September issue hitting newsstands right now, I have been inspired to pay more attention to the art of fashion. It’s hard to do way out in the glorious woods where we at DFC live and work; out here, with the ticks and the flies and the scratchy branches, function necessarily trumps form! But, primed by news of the “Pure Human” project (in which a design student plans to make clothing from Alexander McQueen’s cloned skin), I’ve been keeping my eyes open for cool fashion news. And I’ve found some that may be helpful, especially to those out in the wild: Researchers at Penn State have just prototyped a self-healing fabric.
The neat thing about this is that the fabric itself is not some kind of space-age material: the researchers developed a polyelectrolyte coating that can be applied to any fiber, thus keeping costs low. When that fiber is dipped in water, the coating activates, and torn pieces can simply be pressed together to effect the repair.
And, enzymes can be impregnated into the coating as well. This would protect the wearer from pesticides, biological weapons, or toxic spills, depending on the enzymes used. The garment thus becomes a protective suit!
“Many toxic substances can be absorbed through the skin. Organophosphates, for example, which are used as herbicides and insecticides are absorbed through the skin and can be lethal. Some of these chemicals have also been used as nerve agents. A garment coated with a self-healing film containing an organophosphate hydrolase, an enzyme that breaks down the toxic material, could limit exposure. The squid ring teeth polymer is self-healing in the presence of water, so laundering would repair micro and macro defects in the coating, making the garments rewearable and reusable.”
In addition to making workplaces safer, and fashion more durable, this technology could find applications in the medical field, assisting with wound healing processes. The folks at Penn State will keep working on this innovation; until then, I look forward to the day I will never have to go clothes shopping again!