Scientists have managed to create self-healing textiles in lab setting showing that it could be one day possible to create such heal-healing protective textiles for use in military, hazardous industries and even agriculture.
Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have recently revealed of a development that holds the potential in bringing out a revolution in protective clothing protecting farmers from harmful pesticides, industry workers from hazardous chemical and soldiers from chemicals and biological agents in case of such attacks.
The idea is to use conventional textiles and coat them with self-healing, polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer coating and then make clothes of these textiles for use in hazardous conditions.
Researchers explain that the overall idea and procedure of creating such self-healing textiles is simple. The material to be coated is dipped in a series of liquids to create layers of material to form a self-healing, polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer coating. This coating is deposited “under ambient conditions in safe solvents, such as water, at low cost using simple equipment amenable to scale-up.”
Polyelectrolyte coatings are made up of positively and negatively charged polymers, in this case polymers like those in squid ring teeth proteins. Researchers explain that they are currently dipping the whole garment to create the advanced material, but their technology can be used to even coat threads and then eventually use those threads to manufacture the garments.
During the layering, enzymes can be incorporated into the coating. The researchers used urease — the enzyme that breaks urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide — but in commercial use, the coating would be tailored with enzymes matched to the chemical being targeted.
As a use case, researchers explain that if the garment is to be used by soldiers in case of chemical warfare, an encapsulated enzyme with self-healing properties that can degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin of the soldiers can be used.
Researchers explain that the coating is very thin – less than a micron – and so it won’t be noticeable in everyday use. The study is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.