GLOBAL: Nanotubes fibers and polymers, future of textiles

The researches recently see potential development for interactive textiles.

At the 2004 Textile International Conference, Australian scientist, Humphries outlined the potential development of advanced intelligent textiles as wearable computing, physiological monitoring and combat apparel are just some of the hotspots that are predicted to generate large sums of revenue.

"By 2012, the potential market for interactive textiles may be worth US$7 billion," said Dr. Bill Humphries, Chief Research Scientist and Group Manager of the CSIRO's Textile and Fiber Technology.

From a market research company, it was predicted that more than 60 percent of the U.S. population aged 15 to 50 will carry or wear a wireless computing and communications device at least six hours a day by 2007.

"How much of these devices could be integrated into textiles is still currently unknown," said Humphries.

With a trend towards e-health related issues become an increasingly important concern among an aging population, physiological monitoring devices like posture sensors or abdominal bands measuring respirations may be integrated within interactive textiles to become appealing products for the elderly.

Most of all, combat apparel are essential wear for troops fighting in war torn parts of the world, where full garment integration of ultra lightweight ballistic protection along with passive or active thermal management and physiological causality status monitoring.

"It is still not clear what the killer application will be - health, military or consumer," Humphries emphasized.

All of these textile products however, are based on the next generation of advanced material being investigated at CSIRO, which includes carbon nanotubes, nanocomposite fibers and conducing polymers.

Carbon nanotubes is one of the most durable fibers that have the characteristics of strength and strain.

CSIRO is currently developing ultra-long nanotubes, which can be processed directly into yarns or non-wovens to produce electrical and thermal connectivity.

Nanotube composite fibers can greatly reduce tearing in the fabric. However, greater developments are needed to increase its production.

"Conducting Polymers will likely become breakthrough innovations if plastics can become more flexible and potentially cheaper and easier to process," and could have useful applications to interactive fabrics, added the researcher.

Through greater input from the industry, meeting market demands and creating materials that are robust and easily washable, the future of the interactive textile industry looks very bright.

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Added: October 25, 2004 Source: Agencies
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