Collaborative research at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University endeavors to develop wearable textiles that monitor the wearer’s health by analyzing sweat. The project involves nano yarn structures that can be knitted to form comfortable fabrics. By chemically analyzing the sweat from the wearer, the nano yarns in the fabric changes its color as a way to monitor the wearer’s health condition.
According to the researchers, the nano yarns should resemble spiracles, which are in the abdomen of insects or xylem in plants. These tiny pore structures modeled after biological beings will enable transport and make the fabrics comfortable.
The nano structures are coated on the inside with color-changing chemistries to support the sweat analysis. The team envisions using fluorescent dyes and color-changing liquid crystals for this functionality.
The project involves Professors Shu Yang and Randall Kamien from the University of Pennsylvania and Genevieve Dion from Drexel University. The Keck Future Initiative has supported the work, which has so far resulted in hand-knitted braid involving functional nano yarns.
It is becoming apparent that wearable textiles is a multidisciplinary field and more and more such developments are coming from a nontraditional textile R&D base.