High-tech textiles – more than just clothes

11.05.2015
Photo: Special socks for diabetics

With new textile integrated pressure sensors, for example, in special socks for diabetics three-dimensional measurements can be easily performed and displayed on smartphones; © K. Selsam-Geißler for Fraunhofer ISC

High-tech textiles must fulfill a number of functions and meet many requirements. That is why the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC dedicated some major developing work to this most intriguing research area.

Thin materials and new kinds of sensors now make it possible to integrate silicone elastomer sensors in textiles. They are suitable for applications in medical devices, sports equipment or even furniture and automotive parts, without interfering with the base material or the user. For example, a special stocking was designed for diabetics so they can monitor the pressure load on their feet while walking. The in-stocking sensors provide three-dimensional pressure readings and will warn the wearer whenever the pressure builds up too high at just one spot. The Fraunhofer ISC pressure sensors are combined with the wireless electronics unit developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS and the technology provided by the Zentrum für Telematik ZfT so that readings can be transmitted to smartphones or tablets for easy monitoring. So far, a three-dimensional pressure measurement with comparably high number of sensors, good comfort and reduced costs is not yet available on the market.

In addition to active sensor functions, the call is on for equipment with additional passive functions. In order to provide textiles with other functions than just mechanical strength, they must undergo different refinement processes. Up to now, multiple coatings with different coating systems had to be used to provide a product with more than just one function, and the selection of property improvements was limited. At Techtextil, the Fraunhofer ISC now presents the novel coating system InnoSolTEX® which enables the combination of up to six functions in just one processing strep.

Several partners teamed up with the Fraunhofer ISC to jointly realize the new refinement solution InnoSolTEX®: The Saxonian Textile Research Institute STFI (STFI), the T_O_P Oberflächen GmbH and industry partners Schneider Textilveredlung GmbH, Alterfil Nähfaden GmbH and ROWO Coating Gesellschaft für Beschichtung mbH. InnoSolTEX® is based on ORMOCER®s, a class of environment-friendly materials developed at the Fraunhofer ISC. The properties of ORMOCER®s can easily and precisely be controlled to meet given requirements. The water-based coating system allows to provide textiles with hydrophobic, abrasion resistant, flame retardant, antimicrobial, antistatic and washproof properties, in any combination. So, the textile industry is now provided with a finishing system of modular design which can integrate up to six functions in one single coating to meet manifold requirements. The coating can be equally applied onto threads or web fabrics.

Apart from textile integrated pressure sensors and textile finishing the processing of textile fibers into two and even three-dimensional structures with new technologies becomes more and more important. The innovative production processes can be applied to inorganic fibers to create new applications. On the Techtextil fair show the Fraunhofer Center for High Temperature Materials and Design HTL and the Application Center for Textile Fiber Ceramics present their projects and services for the development of ceramic fiber composites. Their work involves all stages of processing, from the base fibers to the final CMC components, so that both material manufacturers and material users are addressed. Moreover the Application Center investigates, tests and processes ceramic fibers with a view to different questions, and provides training and seminars on textile processing methods as well.

REHACARE.com; Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC

More about Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC at: www.isc.fraunhofer.de