Many people have a smartphone, and most of us have heard of smart homes. But the average person isn’t aware that studies are being done with material to produce smart clothes. The future may mean that certain material used for clothing can light up or collect energy. Some types of fiber may be able to detect pollution and even give information over the internet. The biggest problem currently facing these materials is the fact that because they have been treated with chemicals, they currently wear out very quickly. The good news is that it has now been found how to grow cotton fibers that have these functions growing into them. If the science holds up, then eventually it will mean that cloths will be lighter while also being stronger and brighter and they won’t wear out.
A science paper was set to go to press when the editor’s found some mistakes in its supplemental material that led to their expressing some concern, and they wanted to get clarification from the original authors. The author, who is a chemist at The Weizmann Institute in Israel responded saying that the eras were a mistake in the names of the pigments. He went on to say that he was working with the editors of the journal to fix the problem.
Fortunately, that mistake has not reduced the amount of enthusiasm over this work, and even one of the chemical engineers at MIT said that he liked the paper a lot. If this study proves itself out, it will mean that useful functions can be put in the plants without any genetic engineering. None the less, they will require substantial regulatory hurdles before they can get approved for consumer or commercial use.
The way they intend to modify the cotton is very straightforward. The scientist in Israel and Germany link molecules together with functionality such as magnetism and fluorescent lighting. The cotton plants can absorb these things through a vasculature and use it to build their cells.
To begin, the scientist started with cotton plants that were growing hydroponically instead of those growing in a field. They then took the cotton fibers and cultured them separately which allowed a bypass of the normal process the plant uses for photosynthesis which makes sugar that it needs to grow. They gave the plants what they needed by feeding it with water that had glucose molecules along with the functional molecules they wanted it to absorb that then passed it all to the cells that build cotton fibers.
Fluorescent molecules were linked to the sugars in one example. In the first trial, only a few percent of the fluorescent material was able to successfully get into the fibers which look yellow in normal light, but when ultraviolet light is shined on the plants, they look bright green. At this point, no one knows how long the fluorescent fibers will last. The head scientist Natalia, says that because the compounds are linked directly to the sugars in the fiber, they can’t be washed away.
The scientists were able to insert magnetic compounds to sugars, and the test demonstrated that those could also be incorporated into the fibers. This may mean that clothes made in the future will have the ability to store data. For this to happen, however, it will mean that more of the functional molecules need to get into the fibers.
The fact that plants and organisms can be grown from cultures might mean that this type of approach can be used to modify any living plant. It would mean that there would be some possibilities and functionalities that could be built into clothing. This is an exciting possibility.