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New method to test comfort of smart textiles

A new method has been developed by a doctoral student at the University of Borås to measure how smart textiles feel on the skin.

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A new method has been developed to assess the comfort of smart textiles

Whilst user-friendliness has been the focus of smart textile production, development of comfort of these textiles has fallen behind.

Melkie Tadesse works within the field of textile material technology at the Swedish university and focuses on the development of functional or smart textiles, produced using 3D printing, digital inkjet printing, and coating of conductive polymers on textiles and incorporation of smart fibres during weaving of textiles.

"So far, the research has sought to produce a material that is perceived as an ordinary textile, but without succeeding in finding a method for evaluating the feeling, the comfort, of the material against the skin," Tadesse explains.

Functional fabrics have different properties compared to smart textiles, such as being thermochromic, electrically conductive, photochromic, and electroluminescent.

Tadesse set up a sample material collection of smart and functional textiles produced in various ways and tested how durable the textiles were against washing and mechanical actions, whilst electrical conductivity and surface properties were also analysed.

… participants touched and squeezed functional fabric materials and evaluated them based on different bipolar attributes

The project then carried out experiments with visual and blind subjective evaluations, as Tadesse explains: “We used an expert panel to verify the results. The participants touched and squeezed functional fabric materials and evaluated them based on different bipolar attributes, that is, words and their opposite words, e.g. rough-smooth, that are directly or indirectly related to tactile comfort, i.e. different ways to put words to the experience of touch.”

Using the Kawabata evaluation system, which is used to measure the mechanical properties of fabrics, Tadesse found that low stress mechanical properties are directly related to the tactile comfort of fabrics when in contact with the skin.

The project has been framed to take a comprehensive approach to sustainable development. Tadesse adds: “In the project, we have used completely environmentally friendly, resource-efficient and cost-effective techniques and chemicals, not least when it comes to inkjet printing, when we have developed and collected the various textile materials.”

The research project is funded by SMDTex (Sustainable Management and Design in Textiles), a doctoral programme within the EU Erasmus Mundus scheme.

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