Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has recently invented a keratin-based wool fabric that remembers its shape and changes when triggered or commanded. The memory wool fabric can revolutionize the fashion industry and prevent an enormous contribution of waste produced annually.
A group of researchers have recently discovered and innovated a readily-available material that can be utilized to transform the fashion industry to be more sustainable and prevent massive waste that comes along with designing a product. This smart textile is said to have a memory that retains its shape and change when necessary.
Harvard SEAS researchers developed a biocompatible material that can be produced using three dimensional or 3D printing. This material can be pre-programmed with reversible shape memory that holds a particular shape, and when modified, it will change. The researchers extracted keratin from leftover Agora wool that is mainly used in textile manufacturing.
The research is a huge step in revolutionizing the fashion industry to use and recycle more of the ‘memory wool fabric’ to lessen the waste they create in the process.
The shape-memory material is also referred to as a ‘smart textile’ or ‘memory fabric.’ The study made by the group is published in the journal Nature Materials and headed by Luca Cera, entitled “A bioinspired and hierarchically structured shape memory material.”
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The new fabric that can change and retain shape, also deemed as the material with memory, is quickly rising to fame brought by its functionality and versatility in particular situations that a person requires it to do. Keratin is the primary ingredient that contributes to its unique abilities to shapeshift into whatever material needed by the client.
Keratin is a type of protein that makes up the hair, skin, and nails. It is also the component of most beauty products, primarily for the hair that boasts of repair and nourishment. This protein can be extracted from feathers, horns, and wool of various animals to be used as an essential ingredient. This particular component is believed to strengthen the human hair to make it healthier.
The researchers 3D printed a variety of shapes that whenever introduced to a solution of hydrogen peroxide and monosodium phosphate, it will return to its original state.
The research compares the memory fabric to emulate the human hair’s characteristics. Despite the many changes and hair products such as gel, oils, pomades, and even the rebonding process in salons, the human hair still goes back to its original state once touched by water.
The water is the stimulus that triggers the hair to go back to its original state. Much like the memory fabric, it can take any form of changes like stretching or redesigning. Still, once a programmed stimulus takes effect, it will eventually come back to its natural state.
The researchers who discovered the memory wool fabric aims to recycle and produce keratin without the expense of shearing animals and extracted from there. Keratin, the primary ingredient, is the sought after material that makes wool a top choice in the fashion industry.
The study is aimed to reduce the environmental impact and stress brought on by the fashion and textile industry.
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Written by Isaiah Alonzo