Professor Julianna Abel and Graduate Research Assistant Kevin Eschen gave the Wearables Research Collaboratory a tour of their lab in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. As part of the $317 million public-private partnership called Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), they test fabrics knitted with heat- and electricity-conducting fibers to see how the knits respond to changes in environmental conditions.
Smart fabrics could turn clothing into protective gear or into battery chargers or antennas. The fabrics are dynamic enough for medical-device applications in which they could aid in healing by changing form or function during the healing process. They may also be developed to change the aerodynamic properties of wings during flight.
Professor Abel demonstrates how knit fibers respond to changing temperatures in the lab.
Knits made from smart fibers have dynamic properties of form, size (expansion and contraction), and conductivity.
Graduate Research Assistant Kevin Eschen records knit fibers' reactions to changes in temperature. Applications for the fabric include aerospace, defense, medical, and consumer product industries.