Nano4Design – Nanoforce, QMUL

Intelligent Nanocomposite Fibre for Sensing Prof Ton Peijs, Professor of Materials, QMUL

On 28th February I gave a talk (slides below) at the Nano4Design workshop at Nanoforce, QMUL, a day of presentations and networking around the convergence of design (mainly textiles at this event) and nanotechnologies, which was chaired by Dr Martin Kemp of NanoKTN. Nano4Design is a focus group to bring together the design and nanotechnologies communities together.

I really enjoyed the presentations, which have definitely expanded my knowledge on nanotechnologies in the field of textiles. I made tons of notes and below are my summaries of the talks.

Prof Ton Peijs, Centre for Materials Research, QMUL, kicked off the presentations with a keynote on intelligent nanocomposite fibre for sensing. He talked about intelligent fibres for smart textiles, that included sensors, actuators and touched on conductive materials to make strain sensors. Part of his talk focused on the process of manufacturing yarns and using nanotubes in polymers, to make a high strength nano-reinforced fibre.

Intelligent Nanocomposite Fibre for Sensing Prof Ton Peijs, Professor of Materials, QMUL

Bill Macbeth, Textile Centre of Excellence, talked about Yorkshire’s Textile Innovation Programme, whose aims include developing and delivering training to meet the changing needs of industry, as well as feasibility studies, industrial research, experimental development. He mentioned projects such as combating counterfeiting in textiles and looking at provenance for textiles made in Yorkshire using DNA profile of dyes as proof that cannot be washed out, is cost effective and are acceptable as evidence. Bill also talked about nano-enhanced textiles and fascinating 3D weaving machines that were capable of making very strong woven structures for automotive and aerospace.

Professor Janis Jefferies of Goldsmiths College, U. of London, gave a talk on the Wearable Absence project. It is a system of wearable devices that incorporate wireless technologies and bio-sensing devices such as temperature, heart rate, respiration and GSR (galvanic skin response) sensors. The sensors collect data to analyse the wearer’s emotional state and in turn to activate a database of images and sounds, creating a narrative or series of messages to evoke memories of an absent person. This is done via speakers in the garment’s hood or shoulder seams, scrolling text on an LED array, or video and photos.

My talk, ‘Sensors for e-textiles creatives’ discussed how cheaply available electronic components, microcontrollers, plus the evolution of hacker / maker culture and its expanding communities are causing a boom in interest in coding and electronics from new sections of society, from kids to crafts people to new ways of approaching tech start-ups for creatives. Plus how these new approaches are changing the way designers and artists are able to create work. New considerations to how electronics are designed, such as the sewable microcontroller, the LilyPad Arduino, means electronics no longer have to be seen as cold, sharp, grey and dull and hidden inside work! I showed some examples of my wearable electronics work, which incorporates electronic components and e-textiles into the design of garments and artworks.

Richard Holman, materials technologist, talked about the D30 company portfolio in terms of shock absorption and impact technologies for footwear to motorcycle applications, personal protective equipment such as a riot suit used by the French Gendarmerie and snow board protection. D30 is a composite material comprising of several polymers. He said that ‘the key concept is sensitivity of dilated material that retains flexibility ‘.

Ellie Runcie of the Design Council, talked about the positives of connecting designers with companies to help define and resolve problems. How good design is concerned with what people need, what is technically possible and what is financially possible. She gave an example of a company working in nanotechnology that was struggling to define their business, but with expertise they were helped to develop their brand and applications for various audiences, which turned the company’s fortunes around and they went on to secure funding and become successful.

Accelerating Ideas to Market Through Design, Ellie Runcie, Design Council

Professor Raymond Oliver, Northumbria University, School of Design, talked about several areas around smart materials and technology, using examples such as the changing economic landscape over time and impact. For example, how the digital / physical fusion of embedding intelligent technologies into social environments can be mapped against assets, phases and aspects of a one’s life, which makes for human centered technology. He warned us though that ‘progress is slower than prediction’.

Olivier Picot, PhD researcher at QMUL told us about the production of reflective fibres for smart textile applications, using novel techniques to obtain visual effects based on diffraction and/or reflection of light. This is done via a bi-component fibre system where the fibre (natural or synthetic) is coated with a functional layer of liquid crystal, which gives it new properties, such as changing colour and appearance as a consequence of strain and environmental input.

Production of Reflective Fibres for Smart Textile Applications Oliver Picot, QMUL

Dr Andrew Dean of Spartan Nano, told us about his work with Durham University on nanostructure surfaces and reducing bacterial contamination and fouling on surfaces. We heard how they’ve been using nanostructured antimicrobial films for targeting pathogenic bacteria such as e-coli and staphylococcus aureus in order to kill the bacteria. In the future they’re hoping to develop this technology for use on bandages.

Nanostructured Antimicrobial Films for Textile Applications Dr Andrew Dean, Spartan Nano Ltd

Dr Daniel Lynch, from Exilica told us about his work in embedded fragrances in textiles using micrometer-sized polymers in nano-porous networks. A lot of plastics have odour issues, especially recycled plastics, so it’s really useful to have the ability to improve their smell! We heard about how research is looking into improving the washability aspect of these plastics so they will continue to smell nice after several washes.

Overall it was a really good day, plus I met and had chats with some really interesting people and not forgetting that it was good to hear about the work at Nanoforce, QMUL, so I’d definitely go to another Nano4Design event .