Conceived by researchers at the University of Waterloo and detailed in a paper recently published in Nano-Micro Small, the new fabric is touted as the world’s first stimuli-responsive material (SRM) capable of reacting to two external influences—in this case, both heat and electricity. Thus, the new SMP can not only change its color and shape, but also return to its original shape after the stimuli are removed.
Because of its convenience and simplicity, temperature sensitivity is one of the most common stimuli used in research into smart materials that change shape and color. However, as the team explains in their paper, precise stimulation is usually extremely difficult. Therefore, the fact that their new SRM reacts to electricity allows for much more localized responses via remote control.
To give the new fabric the ability to change color, additional threads containing thermochromic microcapsules (TMCs) were woven alongside the electrically conductive stainless steel threads. When heated, the outer shell of TMC becomes translucent to expose its inner coloring. Once cooled, the coating becomes opaque again, thus returning to its original exterior shade.
“The mentioned characteristics make the fabric an outstanding candidate for wearable devices, textiles, sensing, anti-counterfeiting, human-scale orthopedic device fields and biomimetic applications,” the researchers argue in their conclusions. To demonstrate the latter potential, the team even built a cute dragonfly shape by subjecting their smart fabric to heat and electrical charges.
“By being able to sense and react to environmental stimuli such as temperature, this is a proof of concept that our new material can interact with the environment to monitor ecosystems without damaging them,” said Milad Kamkar, professor of chemical engineering and co-author of the paper.
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