Smart Clothing Mimics Pine Cones

The University of Bath and the London College of Fashion are jointly researching biomimetic clothing (an idea whose virtues we've extolled before) that would function similarly to the system used by pine cones to open up and emit seeds. The clothing will use the latest in what the partnership calls "micro technology" to produce material which will let in air to cool a wearer when it is hot and shut out air when it is cold. The smart garments will consist of a top layer of tiny spikes of water-absorbent material, possibly wool, each only 1/200th of a millimeter wide. When the wearer of the clothing gets hot and sweats, the tiny spikes in the material will react to the moisture and automatically open up, so that air from the outside can get through the material to cool the wearer. When the wearer stops sweating, the diminuitive spikes will close down again to stop air from getting in. The lower layer will be water-resistant, keeping rain and other moisture out whether the spikes are either open or closed.

The project has been chosen as one of eight to represent United Kingdom science at Expo 2005 in Japan from March to September next year. The Expo's theme is "Nature's Wisdom," and is expected to attract 15 million visitors. Professor Julian Vincent, head of the University of Bath's Centre for Biomimetics, said: "The new smart clothing will make wearers' lives much more comfortable by automatically adjusting their clothing to control their body temperature...we're pleased to combine our expertise in technology with cutting-edge clothing design." The material could have a wide variety of applications and could be used for coats, hats, gloves, shirts, trousers, dresses and skirts. ::University of Bath