Science Fiction… Sweaters?


Over the last century or so of science fiction writing and film, there have been many iterations of garments posited for the far future. From sleek jumpsuits, to nakedness, to Dejah Thoris’s jeweled harnesses to the Star Trek redshirt… Now that we are living in the science fiction present, what does the reality for fashion look like? Apparel that is advanced beyond just woven fibers into high-tech data collecting, temperature regulating supersuits? 

Well, they might look like fluffy snuggly sweaters. 

“Current wearables utilize conventional batteries, which are bulky and uncomfortable, and can impose design limitations to the final product,” they write. “Therefore, the development of flexible, electrochemically and electromechanically active yarns, which can be engineered and knitted into full fabrics provide new and practical insights for the scalable production of textile-based devices.”

The team reported that its conductive yarn packs more conductive material into the fibers and can be knitted by a standard industrial knitting machine to produce a textile with top-notch electrical performance capabilities. This combination of ability and durability stands apart from the rest of the functional fabric field today.

Most attempts to turn textiles into wearable technology use stiff metallic fibers that alter the texture and physical behavior of the fabric. Other attempts to make conductive textiles using silver nanoparticles and graphene and other carbon materials raise environmental concerns and come up short on performance requirements. And the coating methods that are successfully able to apply enough material to a textile substrate to make it highly conductive also tend to make the yarns and fabrics too brittle to withstand normal wear and tear.

“Some of the biggest challenges in our field are developing innovative functional yarns at scale that are robust enough to be integrated into the textile manufacturing process and withstand washing,” Dion said. “We believe that demonstrating the manufacturability of any new conductive yarn during experimental stages is crucial. High electrical conductivity and electrochemical performance are important, but so are conductive yarns that can be produced by a simple and scalable process with suitable mechanical properties for textile integration. All must be taken into consideration for the successful development of the next-generation devices that can be worn like everyday garments.” — Read more… 

But wait, there’s more! 
Clothing that can keep you cool? Might mean that you’re wearing that fisherman’s sweater on the hottest summer day. 
“By employing opposite directions of twist and coiling, we engineered fibers that cool when stretched,” said Baughman, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “This is quite unusual behavior since ordinary materials heat up when stretched.”  –Read More
Snuggle up and see what they come up with next! Isn’t science amazing? 


5 responses to “Science Fiction… Sweaters?”

  1. Nick Gardner Avatar
    Nick Gardner

    Speaking as a Minnesotan, I welcome this version of the future.

    1. As a former Alaskan, I relish the idea of warm winter duds that can keep me toasty out in the cold. Now that I live where it gets hot and humid the cooling is appealing as well.

  2. Here in Texas, we like both as well. It can get chilly here.

  3. Not that I followed all the way through with it, but some decades ago (1982-3?), I was fascinated by a home loom at a mountain craft show. So much so, that I did a good bit of research in the public and university libraries I had access to, visited a tiny shop full of hippies who probably drank apple-twig tea, and hung out listening to them talking about the advantages of string vs. metal heddles; I even learned about spinning wheels and carding wool. I drew up plans for making my own loom. And then, I stopped.

    In that process, I DID learn that while we may regard the hand-made fabrics as quaint, primitive, and simple, that’s a load of dingo’s kidneys. They were PROGRAMMING! The patterns result from some pretty sophisticated steps lifting frames by pushing down on treadles, yada yada yada, while doing other things simultaneously.

    I picked up enough about other fabric manufacture techniques to realize that it’s all pretty sophisticated stuff.

    So, to me it seems like a logical progression. Sophisticated techniques go into the making of the ugly Christmas sweater; why not incorporate other technology?

    At some point, my Neanderthal ancestors realized/were taught that they didn’t have to kill the animal to create body coverings, if the bristly stuff it shed was collected and fooled around with in certain ways. Talk about innovation? THAT was innovative!

    And, in the spirit of those ancestors who left me the inheritance of HLA-B27+, I look forward eagerly to the day I can whisper into my sleeve, and have the crock-pot go from HIGH to SIMMER.

  4. John in Philly Avatar
    John in Philly

    Not my field, but if you have MXene coated yarn, could you change the mix of coating to make a Peltier Effect garment?

    I noticed in the MXene article that a heading said, “Hitting Snags.” Somebody has a sense of humor.

    I read the twist effect article, but I didn’t see any mention of the energy cost of twisting, nor any mention if twisting releases heat.

    This link is from the twist article, and looks at carbon fiber artificial muscles.

    Maybe the super suit isn’t so impossible after all.