New Space Cloth Material Could Be Ideal for Embedded Electronics 

22 September 2016

A new type of fabric could change the way smart clothing is made.

Sonia Reynolds from Nottingham Trent University's Advanced Textile Research Group has invented “space cloth”—the first non-woven material made from yarn with strong potential for use as a smart textile due to its unique structure, with space to encase copper wiring, LEDs and more.

A lightweight Zephlinear scarf with LEDs. (Image Credit: Nottingham Trent University) A lightweight Zephlinear scarf with LEDs. (Image Credit: Nottingham Trent University)

Reynolds is now tackling her Ph.D. in the subject to further develop the fabric's novel manufacturing process under the direction of Professor Tilak Dias and Dr. Amanda Briggs-Goode, of the School of Art and Design.

The material, which goes by the scientific name Zephlinear, is unlike traditional woven or knitted materials, which are made by the interloping or interlacing of yarns. Instead Zephlinear is made with a newly established technique called yarn surface entanglement.

"This is a real breakthrough for the textiles industry. It's the first non-woven material made from yarn and promises major benefits for the future of clothing, and more,” said Reynolds. "Because of the material's linear channels of yarn, it has great potential to be used as a smart textile. In particular, we believe it lends itself well to being embedded with microcapsules containing medication or scent, to either help deliver drugs to specific parts of the body or to create antibacterial and aromatic clothing.

According to Reynolds, the material has potential in other applications as well, such as wall coverings, in addition to clothing. It is also not quite as challenging to make as other knit or weave fabrics, which makes its production easier on the environment.

The name Zephlinear comes from the merger of two words: zephyr and linear. It was given the nickname "space cloth" due to its appearance and its e-textile capabilities.

The material is currently pending patent and was recently presented at the Wearable Technology Show in the U.S.

According to research, the material is strongest and most efficient when created from natural yarns, such as 100% wool, hair or wool/silk mixtures, but it can also be made from synthetic yarns.

"Zephlinear is a remarkable development in an industry which is advancing at an incredible pace,” said Professor Dias, who leads the University's Advanced Textiles Research Group. "We believe it has huge potential for textiles, and we have already found that it combines well with e-textile technologies such as heated textiles or textiles with embedded LEDs.

The team looks forward to further developing the material and providing people with a smarter and more environmentally friendly clothing option in the future.

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