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Smart Textiles - A Review

By : J. ThaniKai Vimal, Mrs S. Santhana Rajam
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Smart Textile is developing an internationally acknowledge centre for innovation, development, design and production of the next generation's textile. The goal is to operate a dynamic innovation system; smart textiles to promote growth strengthen the international position and create new job opportunities in the region.

Smart textiles are no longer a science-fiction fantasy. For example: there are in the market self cleaning carpets, memory shaped and environment responsive textiles, and anti-insomniac micro fibers.

Nature & Properties

As the name suggest, smart textiles, which can sense or stimuli the environmental condition. But there is some substantive difference between smart & intelligent textile. Smart textiles or materials can be defined as the materials & structures which have sense or can sense the environmental condition or stimuli whereas intelligent textile can be defined as textile structures which not only can sense but can also react & respond to environmental condition or stimuli. These stimuli as well as response could be mechanical, thermal, electric, magnetic or from other source. According to the manner of reaction, smart textiles can be divided in to four categories:

  • Passive Smart Textiles: which can only sense the environmental condition & stimuli,
  • Active Smart Textiles: which sense and react to the condition or stimuli,
  • Very Smart Textiles: which can sense, react & adapt themselves accordingly, and
  • Intelligent Textiles: which are those capable of responding or activated to perform a function in a manual pre-programmed manner.

Smart Fabrics are one which can change or react automatically to their surroundings. These are being developed to be able or sense what is happening to the wearer or its immediate surroundings. For example, it may help to know the capability when the wearer's heart rate spikes or drops. Gore-Tex can also be considered as an example of smart fabric because of its material properties to let water or moisture flow in one direction and not the other. Nanotechnologies such as carbon nanotubes or fireproof treatments or combination of electronics & conductive fabrics for sensing a person vital signs, can also be considered as some modern type of smart fabrics. Example: Zephyr technology bioharness which can be built into a shirt or bra strap. Biological monitoring technology has also been updated by mainstream consumers in the form of the Numetrex Adidas heart rate monitoring garments, which combine with smart fabrics with advanced knitting technologies.


Now the question arises, how does a smart textile work. We have some sort of stimulated arrangement of sensors calibrated with electronic devices help to sense, process & activate the signal in well manner. The sensors provide a nerve system to detect signals. The processor analyses & evaluates the signals. The actuators act upon the detected & evaluated signal either directly or from a central control unit.

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