July 20, 2024

New Shape-Shifting Fiber Could Revolutionize Textile Manufacturing

New Shape-Shifting Fiber Could Revolutionize Textile Manufacturing

Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have developed a groundbreaking shape-shifting fiber called FibeRobo. Unlike previous shape-changing fibers, FibeRobo is low-cost, compatible with existing textile manufacturing machinery, and doesn’t require additional hardware or sensors. This innovative fiber has the potential to transform the textile industry and be used in a range of applications.

The need for adaptive and responsive textiles is essential in various industries, from aerospace to fashion. However, most textiles lack this capability. To tackle this issue, researchers turned to liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) to create a fiber that can silently change shape in response to temperature.

LCE is a material that behaves like a liquid but can stack into a crystal arrangement when settled. By incorporating LCE crystals into a stretchy elastomer network, the researchers were able to create a fiber that contracts when heat is applied and returns to its original shape when heat is removed.

To manufacture the fiber, LCE resin is slowly squeezed through a nozzle while being cured with UV light. Afterward, the fiber is dipped in oil to provide a slippery coating and then cured with strong UV light again to ensure its strength and smoothness. Finally, the fiber is collected on a spool and coated with powder for easy integration into textile manufacturing machines.

The entire process, from chemical synthesis to the finished fiber, takes approximately a day and produces about a kilometer of fiber. Dubbed FibeRobo, this fiber costs only 20 cents per meter, making it 60 times cheaper than currently available shape-changing fibers. It can contract up to 40% without bending, making it highly versatile for various applications.

FibeRobo can easily be incorporated into existing textile manufacturing processes, including industrial sewing and knitting machines, non-industrial hand looms, and even crochet. To demonstrate its capabilities, the researchers used an industrial knitting machine to create a compression jacket for a dog that can be controlled using a smartphone. They also designed an embroidered adaptive sports bra that tightens when the user starts exercising.

The researchers are now focused on making FibeRobo’s chemical components recyclable or biodegradable. Additionally, they aim to simplify the polymer synthesis process so that individuals without lab expertise can produce the fiber on their own.

FibeRobo has the potential to revolutionize textile manufacturing, offering unlimited possibilities for creating adaptive and responsive fabrics. This breakthrough fiber could be used in a range of applications, from performance wear to aerospace materials, and truly transform the way we interact with textiles.

Note:

  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it