Can you imagine a smart material that can be pre-programmed? It will have reversible shape memory which means that it will be able to hold a particular shape and when modified, it will change. Sounds a bit science fiction, but the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has found a way to make it a reality. The Harvard SEAS researchers have developed a biocompatible material that can be produced using three dimensional or 3D printing. Bragging “a memory”, the smart textile is able to retain its shape and change on command.
Can Memory Wool Fabric Revolutionize the Fashion Industry?
The idea of keratin-based wool fabric transforming the fashion industry and making it more sustainable sounds like a wonderful idea. I mean, we all know that the fashion industry has a massive waste problem which needs to be solved ASAP, which leaves me to ask, is biocompatible material the answer?
Extracting Keratin from leftover Agora wool, which is typically used in textile manufacturing, the researchers have managed to come up with a new fabric with memory. Attractive because of its functionality and versatility, the material boasts Keratin as its main ingredient. Keratin is no stranger to the beauty industry; it is a type of protein used in various products to strengthen hair, skin, and nails. The protein can be extracted from feathers, horns, and wool of different animals. The reason why the Harvard scientists used Keratin to create the ‘memory wool fabric’ is because it helps contribute to its unique abilities to shapeshift into whatever material is needed. To return it to its original state, the researchers introduce a solution of hydrogen peroxide and monosodium phosphate to the fabric. It acts as a stimulus that triggers the textile to go back to its initial condition.
Described as being able to imitate human hair characteristics, the Harvard Scientists have managed to recycle and produce Keratin without the expense of shearing animals and extracted from there. Although it is still in its lab stage, the team behind what fashion tech enthusiasts are calling a “Fabric With Super Abilities “, are not only hoping to help the textile and fashion industry make a more positive impact on the environment, they hope that their innovation can play a key role in products like self-fitting bras and textiles for medical therapeutics.
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.