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Humidity-responsive smart textile using silk in China
Chinese scientists have developed a smart textile using silk that can automatically contract and stretch with change in humidity. A fibre artificial muscle created at the Nankai University in Tianjin creates textiles, sleeves made from which can vertically shrink by 45 per cent when exposed to moisture and then recover to its initial length in dry conditions.
Fibre artificial muscles refer to materials that mimic natural muscles and can reversibly contract, expand or rotate within one component due to an external stimulus like electricity, temperature, moisture and light.
The study, published in the ‘International Journal of Advanced Functional Materials’, says the artificial muscle was made of silkworm silk because the natural fibre is cheap, comfortable and absorbs water well, according to a news agency report.
Lead researcher Liu Zunfeng said the study was inspired by the mechanism of reversible volume expansion of silk fibre. After water molecules are absorbed by silk protein, the fibre volume would increase, and its porosity would change.
The fibre volume changes and structural transformation after water absorption and desorption result in reversible contraction, expansion and rotation responses, indicating that silk would be a promising candidate for moisture-responsive smart textiles.
In addition, mature processing methods of silk, such as degumming, dyeing and thermal setting, ensure the extensive applicability of silk muscle. (DS)