The 'power trousers', which bring together experts in fields including functional 3D-printing, smart-material development and artificial muscle technology, are expected to provide a 5-10 per cent increase in strength to the wearer’s own muscles, within a decade.
The project led by the University of Bristol, will also draw on expertise from the universities of the West of England, Nottingham, Strathclyde, Southampton and Loughborough.
By the end of the project, in three years, the team plans to develop a pair of 'smart trousers' that give added bionic strength to help wearers climb stairs and stand up. The trousers could also help avoid falls by detecting and providing extra support when the user is losing balance.
"The first thing you need to do is get Wallace and Gromit’s ‘techno trousers’ out of your mind. We will be using very sophisticated soft materials with what are in effect motors integrated into the fabric to exert forces that move and support parts of the body," Dr O’Connor, the team’s clinical expert, said.
"These fabrics will be coupled with intelligent control systems. When the system senses the user needs their ankle to flex, the fabric will flex upward. When they need their knee to bend, it will bend the knee. They will feel like a pair of tight trousers or tights," explained Dr O’Connor
Dr Abbas Dehghani, senior lecturer in the University of Leeds will develop the intelligent control system to direct when and how the fabric moves. "The system has to be able to work out what the user is trying to do; it is no good the trousers trying to help you walk, if you actually want to sit down."
“My job is to develop that top-level intelligent control and the systems that work out and coordinate the movement of the clothing to support that activity," Dr Dehghani added.
The prototype garments currently resemble Lycra cycling trousers; however, the researchers are confident that the trousers can be developed in more ‘tasteful’ styles, and should also be washable. (RR)
Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India