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18/04/2014

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A Future in Textiles

A Future in Textiles

Adam Mansell, who will be judging at the National Science + Engineering Competition finals, to award the UKFT Textile Edge Prize, shares his thoughts on the textiles industry.

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Adam MansellTextiles: A dead industry right? T-shirts from a supermarket, jackets from the internet. Where’s the science in that? Where’s the career in that?

According to a recent report, the technical textiles industry is worth about $127 billion. And at the moment there are companies working on fabrics that could help wounds to heal faster, clothing that can monitor your biometrics, fabrics that are self-heating, and garments that can reflect your mood or even work as a personal area network keeping you connected wherever you go.

How about a garment that can power itself from your own movement, while integrating tactical radios, GPS devices and smartphones? Or what about a garment that can seal a bullet wound or a bandage that can sense bacterial activity and respond by self-administering medication? Ever dreamt up a textile skin that will allow the data from our bodies to be fed directly to a computer?

All of these innovations are hopes for the future in smart textiles technology. But we’re already seeing the benefits of the innovative research being carried out at a range of textiles companies.

Both Formula 1 cars and the new Airbus use technical textiles and carbon composites in the structure and chassis of the vehicles. This makes them more lightweight, stronger and safer than more traditional materials, such as aluminium and steel.

Technical textiles even helped team GB win all those golds – the cyclists used the latest technical textile in their shorts which helped them achieve those fantastic results.

Producing new, highly innovative technologies takes time and a lot of trial and error - not to mention money. It is a hugely interesting industry, with a vast range of opportunities for people with science and engineering skills.

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