The existence of Graphene was first theorised in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until 2004 when two maverick scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, were able to isolate and test it. As technology continues to advance, Graphene textile technology is emerging as the new material disrupting the smart textile world. Following in the footsteps of scientists, and inspired by what the Graphene can do, Vollebak released a graphene-coated jacket. The experimental prototype is their first step towards creating bionic clothing that is both bulletproof and intelligent.
Founded by twin brothers and adventure athletes Nick and Steve Tidball, Vollebak is a company that has been using science and technology to make the most advanced sports gear. The work included an indestructible 100 Year Hoodie, made entirely out of Kevlar, Solar Charged Jackets that can be charged by the sun and made to glow, and a clothing system built with the same ceramic technology used in jet engines and space shuttles. Now their next logical step is for them to get graphene out into the hands of early adopters to see what happens.
Vollebak Explores New Super Material Graphene
Over the last few years, the brothers have been working with production partners in Italy and Portugal to put the Graphene material and jacket together. “The starting point was to turn raw graphite into graphene nanoplatelets. These small stacks of graphene were then blended with polyurethane and nylon to create an entirely new material that’s instantly stronger and can store and conduct heat, repel bacteria, conduct power, let sweat evaporate, and keep wind and rain out, but without adding a single gram of weight”, explained their press release.
“graphene challenges the fundamental laws of heat conduction, meaning your jacket will not only conduct the heat from your body around itself to equalise your skin temperature and increase it.”
This first edition of the Graphene Jacket is a fully reversible jacket, with one side coated entirely in graphene and the other not. The graphene side is gunmetal grey. The non-graphene side is matt black and made from high-strength, high-stretch nylon. “Depending on which way round you wear it and what you do in it, the jacket will interact with your body and the world around it in a series of different ways,” revealed the Vollebak team. They also explain in their press release that graphene challenges the fundamental laws of heat conduction, meaning your jacket will not only conduct the heat from your body around itself to equalise your skin temperature and increase it. So, theoretically, the coat can store an unlimited amount of heat, which means it can work like a radiator.
Vollebak co-founder Steve Tidball explains further: “When clothing can start conducting heat and electricity all sorts of cool things can start happening. It means that over the next decade your clothing can start to become a platform for other innovations. And that’s really what we’re interested in. Heating is not the end game. Our view is that wearable technology will become increasingly invisible over the next 10 to 20 years. Instead of wearing it over your eyes or on your wrist, it will be embedded as clothing and tech simply merge. We think graphene’s ability to conduct heat and power and withstand insane forces, while adding zero mass, will make it central to the story”.
Vollebak Is Pushing Materials to Accelerate Discovery
On the project, he adds, “By putting Graphene Jackets out into the world as experimental prototypes, we aim to open up our R&D process and accelerate discovery by getting graphene out of the research labs and into the field. And we’re looking to harness the collective power of early adopters as a test group to do it. Together they’re some of the smartest and most hardcore guys in the world – adventurers, entrepreneurs, scientists – so we believe that between them they’re likely to discover things that we don’t know. It brings massive scale to our ability to experiment with the material to see how it behaves.”
As fashion tech is slowly venturing into the Graphene era, I believe that we have only seen a glimpse of this supermaterial’s full potential. As its capacity to develop into even more compelling offering grows, we can look forward to a future where Graphene is more easily incorporated into a variety of existing and emerging technologies.
Founding editor-in-chief of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta is currently one of the leading influencers writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She has also given talks at Premiere Vision, Munich Fabric Start and Pure London, to name a few. Besides working as a fashion innovation consultant for various fashion companies like LVMH Atelier, Muchaneta has also contributed to Vogue Business, is a senior contributor at The Interline and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, UAL.