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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > The Future of Nanotechnology > Scientists Want to Change the Way We Use and Wear Clothing

Amanda Richter

Abstract:
If you're not familiar with Life Alert, the health monitoring technology for seniors, you've certainly heard their famous slogan before. Devices like the ones made by Life Alert allow seniors to contact medical professionals by pressing a button on a device worn around the neck in case of a heart attack, stroke or debilitating fall.

March 11th, 2014

Scientists Want to Change the Way We Use and Wear Clothing



"Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"

If you're not familiar with Life Alert, the health monitoring technology for seniors, you've certainly heard their famous slogan before. Devices like the ones made by Life Alert allow seniors to contact medical professionals by pressing a button on a device worn around the neck in case of a heart attack, stroke or debilitating fall.

The fitness monitor market is currently booming. ABI Research estimates that 61 percent of all wearable technology in the U.S. is some form of sport or activity tracker, and that figure will increase by 50 percent during the course of this year. But no matter how popular or convenient these devices become, they will always be an extra piece of hardware to put around our wrists or neck every morning. This is why scientists want to remove external devices from the equation and use nanotechnology to make our clothes smarter and more efficient.

Sensoria Fitness Socks
Sensoria is a fitness tech company that creates clothing garments to track and analyze your daily fitness. Other brands like Nike and Fitbit use devices to track movements and count calories, but using something as simple as socks.

The socks use textile sensors that send data to an attachable anklet (so there is at least some external device) that ultimately sends the crunched numbers to an app on your smartphone to give athletes a readout on anything from running patterns to tips on choosing better shoes for different feet types.

Heatex Heat-generating Textile
A South Korean company created a fabric that creates heat, called Heatex. Heated fabrics have been on the market for years but the technology behind Heatex has a twist—the fabric itself generates the heat, not any wires or outside sources of energy (besides natural ones).

Heatex fabric uses a conductive polymer to self-generate heat in the clothing. The company claims it's the first fabric in the world able to do this. The material is also water and wind proof, making it usable for both the outer (such as a winter jacket) and heating layer in the clothing garment. On top of that, the heat will be controlled by a smartphone app for versatility in different climates.

The Quality of Fabrics
And speaking of wind and water proof, nanotechnology isn't just giving our clothes more information to be analyzed by smartphones. The same nanotechnology used in swimming pools and other outdoor settings is now being used to keep clothes clean and wrinkle-free. Specialty pool products make nano generators that detect salt and chlorine levels in pools and adjust those levels in the water, and now scientists are applying the same principle to clothing.

Forbes reports that we could eventually say goodbye to traditional laundry as we know it, as [link"http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2011/12/15/nanotechnology-may-lead-to-the-end-of-laundry/:companies like NanoSphere are developing technology to keep dirt and water out of clothes] even during direct contact. Many consumers are already familiar with NeverWet, a spray-on substance that makes surfaces hydrophobic—meaning they completely resist most types of liquids. While it is an effective substance, scientists want to create clothing with a NeverWet quality built into the material without the extra spray.

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