It’s Time to Sweat – Vents in the Clothes Opens Automatically

08 Dec 2015

It’s Time to Sweat – Vents in the Clothes Opens Automatically

December 08, 2015Product Innovate

A MIT research team – bioLogic is using bacillus subtilis natto cells to create real world applications, including a revolutionary bio-skin fabric used to create clothing that will open cooling vents based on the wearer’s body temperature. The natto cells are extremely sensitive to exposure to humidity, moisture and heat and they will change size and shape based on its presence. Many companies have teamed up with bioLogic to create a collection of active wear that will shift and alter its shape based on the activity of the wearer.

These shifting fabric vents are the result of the natto cells that have been incorporated into the spandex material. When heat or humidity levels increase, each natto cell is capable of expanding rapidly up to 50% of its original size, causing the textiles to automatically alter shape. When clothes are made from natto-infused textiles, the bioLogic team can control the type of cooling vents, the amount of cooling that the clothing will provide, and even the areas of the body that can be cooled. They do this by cutting specific patterned slits into the fabric, and then pairing those slits with bioprinted lines of a natto cell-infused material.

If the printed lines of cells are applied in straight lines, then the edges of the slits will quickly fold up, opening large cooling vents. If they are applied in a more uniform pattern the fabric will curl up into a more organic pattern. They can even create extremely small vents that when curled are significantly less noticeable. And once the body has cooled down, the natto cells will return to their original size, and the vents will close up again. The bioLogic team developed a special 3D bioprinter that will print natto cells onto spandex textiles with a specific pattern of vents cut into them. By optimizing the pattern that they print onto the textiles with the type of vents, they can create a wide variety of effects in the final clothing by controlling its exposure to heat and moisture. They can even be printed to react to a specific source of heat, including the wearer’s internal body temperature, the level of body sweat present on the wearer, or changes in external humidity and weather.

Initiated from MIT Media Lab, BioLogic is our attempt to program living organism and invent responsive and transformable interfaces of the future. Nature has engineered its own actuators, as well as the efficient material composition, geometry and structure to utilize its actuators and achieve functional transformation. Based on the natural phenomenon of hygromorphic transformation, we introduce a specific type of living cells as nanoactuators that react to body temperature and humidity change.

The living nanoactuator can be controlled by electrical signal and communicate with the virtual world as well. A digital printing system and design simulation software are developed to assist the design of transformation structure. BioLogic is also experimenting with different ways of incorporating the natto cells into different types of fabrics for different uses. So far they have created a lampshade that transforms based on the heat of the light bulb or the amount of light in the room. They have developed a tea bag with a natto-infused leaf on the end of it.

When the tea bag is placed into hot water, the leaf will slowly begin to uncurl, when it has completely opened up, the tea has completely steeped and is ready to drink. They have also created a flexible material that is capable of changing color, folding and unfolding based on the amount of moisture being applied to it. To demonstrate the ability, they turned some of the fabric into flowers that will open and turn red when sprayed with water. While the focus of BioLogic is currently on clothing and fabric, the natto cells can also be incorporated into more complex materials that will automatically change shape. This could include self-assembling packaging, objects that will alter their shape and orientation based on the local weather or even incorporated into sunscreens on windows.

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