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New Age of Clothes; regenerating body armor

Fariha Marjia
New Age of Clothes; regenerating body armor

Inspired by the way in which blood clots in open wounds, researchers have developed a revolutionary new-age material that can heal it self, as well as self-regenerate. They are calling it the “body armor of the future”. The only catch is, the armor fabric will be coated with a thin layer of self-healing film.
Thanks to Nano research, the potential of self-healing clothes have already been discovered, and similarly such technology can also be harnessed to protect soldiers from chemical or biological attacks or shield farmers from exposure to toxic pesticides.
With innovation and creativity paired up with the power of our imaginations, there's so much that we can achieve if we can only envision it. However, does the greatness of an invention only lie in its ability to do good? Researchers have come up with deadlier weapons of warfare. Do we call it a defensive measure, or an offensive one?
Professor Melik Demirel, from Penn State University who specializes in  engineering science and mechanics, is also the senior author of the study, stated that “Fashion designers use natural fibers made of proteins like wool or silk that are expensive and they are not self-healing. We were looking for a way to make fabrics self-healing using conventional textiles. So we came up with this coating technology.”
The process is of self-healing is quite complex, involving a number of steps. To create this unique clothing, the researchers take the fabric to be immersed into a series of liquids. These liquids help in creating overlapping layers that ultimately result in the polyelectrolyte coating. Current studies suggest that the ring polymers present are of a similar nature to those found in a squid’s teeth.
In order for the healing process, the fabric must be placed in a safe solvent, like water under the natural conditions. For this experiment, researchers have opted to use a specific enzyme called Urease, an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of urea, forming ammonia and carbon dioxide. It protects the armor from external toxins. Yet, if this fabric ends up for commercial use and gets mass produced, a different enzyme may be used according to the targeted chemical.  
 “If you need to use enzymes for biological or chemical effects, you can have an encapsulated enzyme with self-healing properties degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin,” Demirel said.
The researchers also emphasize the importance of such film on uses other than warfare. They believe by coating garments and other clothing items with a thin layer, may prove to protect farmers from harmful pesticides, toxins and other chemicals such as organophosphates, which are used as herbicides and insecticides as well as nerve agents against soldiers. These chemicals can be lethal if enough are absorbed through the skin. A film that contains a specific enzyme that breaks down organophosphates would protect individuals from these toxic materials.
"There are many examples of biological organisms that can regenerate in response to trauma, such as a starfish that can fully regenerate limbs or flatworms that can regenerate new heads and tails when cut," says lead study author Scott White, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In experiments by White and his colleagues, the material was observed to be able to regenerate a gash of 1.3 inches wide, within 20 minutes.
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August 17, 2016
About Author

A Law major, Fariha loves skimming through libraries and smelling old books. Her interest for movies and music makes her free-write contents and cover reviews at Intellect.

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