Technical textiles

Textiles have come a long way since the early days of cotton and silk, and today’s modern textiles have some very advanced and useful properties.

A major advance in textiles technology was the invention of polyamide, more commonly known as nylon. This synthetic material can be pulled into very thin strands when heated and spun just like natural textiles, and is now used extensively as a fabric in clothing.

Modern textiles can be engineered to have numerous properties, such as additional strength or resistance to fire, water and even dirt.

Conductive fabrics allow a small electrical current to safely pass through them. This technology is used to dissipate static charge or for touch-screen gloves, which allow a small amount of charge to flow through the glove to connect to the screen.

A man using a smartphone in the snow with gloves adapted to be able to use touch screens.
User operating phone using gloves with conductive fabric

Fire-retardant fabrics are textiles that are more resistant to fire than others, through chemical treatment or manufactured fireproof fibres. They are often used in furniture and furnishings where fire safety is paramount.

Kevlar is a tightly woven fabric that has great impact resistance. It is used in racing tyres, racing sails, gardening gloves and bulletproof vests.

Three black bulletproof vests on a white background.
Kevlar used in bulletproof vests

Microfibres are much thinner than human hairs and can be coiled to provide a very warm, soft or absorbent material that can be used in winter clothes or products such as cleaning cloths.

Microencapsulation involves encapsulating liquid or solid substances in tiny thin-walled bubbles. These microspheres gradually release active agents when rubbed, which rupture the thin-walled membrane. This can bring benefits such as smelling good to cover body odours in sports clothing. A similar technology is used in the scratch and sniff perfume and aftershave samples in magazines.

Since the development of synthetic fibres, there have been numerous improvements in textiles technology, and new variations are constantly being produced. Like other engineered modern materials, properties can be combined or enhanced, so if you want something to be fire and water resistant while also being conductive, textiles can be engineered to meet those needs.

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