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These Futuristic Fabrics Could Revolutionize Your Clothes

Photo courtesy of James Dean via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic. 

Cotton is, famously and historically, “the fabric of our lives.” But with the aid of technology and innovative minds, futuristic fabrics could be as smart as they are soft.

The shift from polyester to polytechnic, of course, won’t be seamless (pun intended). Even so, incredible new textile inventions can give us a sneak peek at just how our clothes have the potential to evolve.

Here are five types of futuristic fabrics with qualities that could change clothes as we know them.

1. Gesture Interactive

Google’s Project Jacquard, in partnership with Levi Jeans, is developing “smart clothes” sewn with conductive fibers for gesture-interactive textiles. Clothes woven with the smart thread would be able to control electronic devices by taps and other gestures.

2. 3D-printed

The world’s first 3D fabric printer, called the Electroloom, uses an electrospinning technique to turn liquid into a seamless garment. The liquid, which is likely a custom polyester/cotton blend, is sprayed onto a mold for any outcome desired.

This means there is no cutting or sewing required, contrary to today’s garment industries. The product is still in its infancy, but holds great potential for the future of manufacturing.

3. Self-cleaning

With Silic, a liquid-repellent fabric made with hydrophobic nanotechnology, stains could be a thing of the past. The unique T-shirt, conceived through Kickstarter, is available in black and white (and guaranteed to stay that way).

The particles layered in the fabric create a wall of air between the shirt and liquid molecules, causing the liquid to roll right off and sweat to evaporate.

4. Invisible

While no cloak of Harry Potter quality is known to exist, light-bending fabrics have been under development for years, especially for military purposes.

The recent development of fishnet-like metamaterial created using a nanotransfer printing technique goes beyond just perspective tricks, bending the visible light spectrum around the cloaked object (or person!) so that it’s undetectable to the naked eye.  Japanese researchers have developed a similar material, as seen in the above video.

5. Pollution-detecting

The innovative clothing project developed by NYU students, called Warning Signs, involves garments that, through thermochromic fabric, change color when sensing carbon monoxide in the air.

Just the sheer existence of these materials and technologies is evidence that, as much as we cling to our well-worn sweaters, futuristic fabrics could bring about exciting changes in the garment world.

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Jennifer Markert