Jack Uldrich
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The Future of Clothes is Small

Posted in Manufacturing

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A while back, I discussed how nano-fabrics would be big business, I still stand-by that assessment and, in fact, I am even more confident after reading this article which discusses how researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center are exploring how to employ nanotechnology to make multifunctional uniforms.

The advances that the center is investigating go well beyond what companies such as Nano-Tex are doing to make pants and shirts stain-resistant. Specifically, the Army is interested in incorporating batteries and sensors directly into soldier’s uniforms. Today, it has been estimated that the average soldier carries about 30-pounds of batteries into battle, and these batteries do everything from power night-vision googles, laser-range finders, advanced radios and networked computers. Obviously, it is important that these devices don’t run out of juice during the heat of the battle.

By directly incorporating nanomaterials into polymers and fabrics, the Army is hoping to either capture the photons from the sun to help keep the batteries powered longer or, alternatively, use the thermal heat generated from a soldier’s body to augment a battery’s longeveity.

The technology is still a ways off, but the Natick facility is reportedly close to testing some of these technologies out in the field. I would encourage executives in the clothing, textile and retail industries to keep abreast of these advances because in the near future I see people powering their iPods, laptops, cellphones and other electronic devices not just from the batteries in those devices but from the batteries in their clothing. It might sound odd today, but if you ”jump the curve” I think you’ll agree that it is almost destine to happen—just think after going for a long run with your Nike+iPod system that your device will come back with even more power than when you left!



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