How Smart Clothing Is Shaping The Health And Fitness Future – Women’s Health

Smart clothing often adds tech componentsto existing fabrics, but scientists andinnovators are also working on electronictextiles or e-textiles where the fabricitself is the technology.

Dr Fatemeh Mokhtari is a research scientistat the Australian Institute for InnovativeMaterials and a research assistant at theInstitute for Superconducting & ElectronicMaterials at the University of Wollongong. Aspart of her PhD project, she created a specificelectronic fibre and used it to produce afabric on a knitting machine. The fabric canconvert mechanical energy into electricalenergy, Mokhtari explains, which can thenbe used to power a device or function.

What kind of mechanical energy? Forexample, when you walk, different parts ofyour body move your shoulder, your kneewill be bent, your elbow would be bent. Itsthis kind of mechanical movement, she says.When you are running [wearing the fabric],this mechanical movement could be stored ina battery and used for charging your phone,watch, a bicycle light or any kind of personalelectrical devices. If tracking is the goal, sheadds, it could be used to sense things likemovement and body temperature.

Theres a way to go and its of course acomplex endeavour, combining expertisefrom the worlds of material science, textiles,electronics and medicine. Challenges includeexperimenting with different materials toboost the power output as well as makingsure fabrics are human-body-friendly. Butthe implications are huge. Imagine trackingfitness insights on a hike and then givingyour phone some juice, all from your T-shirt.

Soldiers could charge their equipmentthrough their movement, says Mokhtari,and healthcare patients could bemonitored via their clothing.

Next-generation fabrics are also underthe microscope in the northern hemisphere.

Yiyue Luo, a graduate student at MITsComputer Science and Artificial IntelligenceLaboratory, is working on a textile that sensesthe wearers movement via their contact withthe environment. Integrating their own fibresinto the mix, her team has created prototypesincluding a vest, glove and sock. If somebodyis wearing the latter for example, were ableto collect the real-time pressure imprintsbetween [their] feet and the floor, says Luo.

Based on that, well be able to extractuseful information. We know if the personis squatting, climbing or walking down thestairs, or something like that. A garmentcould give feedback that helps an athleteor coach evaluate performance, she says.

It could support rehabilitation or detectwhether someone has been sitting orlying down for a long time.

Textile innovation isnt just of theelectronics kind. Also in the US, TuftsUniversity scientists have developed smartfabrics with bioactive inks that change colourin response to chemicals released from thebody, in sweat for example. This couldsignal fatigue, dehydration or even skinhealth. Meanwhile, mechanical engineersat Vanderbilt University have designedan exosuit (it looks kind of like anabseil harness) to support workersbacks in high-strain industries suchas construction and healthcare.

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How Smart Clothing Is Shaping The Health And Fitness Future - Women's Health

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