Page 20 - Engineering Career Guide for UT Austin
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 Clothing Gets Really Smart
Materials engineers find new ways to amaze, from fabrics that charge, to clothes that breathe.
First there was clothing that lit up with flexible, sewn-in LED circuits. Then, so-called smart clothing arrived for monitor- ing functions like heart rate and calories burned. Even smarter: Nike’s self-tying athletic shoes! Advances in materials en- gineering just keep coming. Here are a couple more cool innovations:
• Chargeable clothes. Phone batteries are notoriously short- lived, causing all kinds of aggravation. Now imagine charging your phone with your shirt or your jacket as you walk around or hang out with your friends outside. Scientists and engineers have been working for years to create fabrics that could harness the energy the wearer generates by walking and moving. Recently, a team
at the Georgia Institute of Technology invented a fabric that can gather energy from both sunlight and motion and then store it in embedded fibers. This fabric already has potential in the wearable tech market — think mobile phones, medical devices, infrastructure monitoring, and the ever-helpful GPS!!
• Living textiles. In a new twist on the expanding role of technology in fashion, a research team at MIT called bioLogic has embedded fabric with bacteria. The synthetic bio-skin reacts to body heat and sweat, causing flaps around heat zones to open, enabling sweat to evaporate and cool down the body. Together with New Balance, bioLogic is applying this technology to creating sportswear that enhances performance through regulating body temperature. According to bioLogic, “Bio is the new interface. We are imagining a world where actuators [the component responsi- ble for moving or controlling a mechanism] and sensors can be grown rather than manufactured, being derived from nature as opposed to engineered in factories.” Sounds great, so long as we don’t end up with ants in our pants.

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