that can report the location of an injured miner
or automatically contract around a soldier's wound
to prevent blood loss may sound like the stuff of
science fiction, but it is not far from reality following
the development of a new yarn made from sub-microscopic
a breakthrough in the development of ‘smart'
clothing, scientists at CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology
in Geelong and at the University of Texas NanoTech
Institute have used Australian wool and cotton spinning
know-how to produce a new yarn made solely from carbon
nanotubes. These tiny high-tech fibres can be woven
into strong, lightweight yarn with some extraordinary
hollow fibres measure about a millionth of a centimetre
in diameter, and are ‘grown' at high temperatures
Ken Atkinson, project leader in textile research
and development at CSIRO, says the nanotubes imbue
the resultant yarn with properties including electrical
conductivity, high strength and a high breaking strain.
They can also withstand extreme temperatures while
retaining their strength and flexibility.
It is a case of technology boosting the competitiveness
of a traditional industry by effectively creating
a new product.
Researchers say the conductivity and flexibility
mean carbon nanotube fibres could act as antennas
when woven into fabrics, allowing, for example, wearers
to be continuously tracked via a GPS system.
military applications include bullet-proof vests,
and material incorporating sensors which would
be ‘aware' when a soldier was wounded and act as
electrically driven muscles, contracting around a
wound to prevent further blood loss.
Dr Ray Baughman, the director of the University
of Texas NanoTech Institute, says the twist-based
nanotube spinning technology would not have originated
without the game-changing insights of CSIRO's Mr
Atkinson and Mei Zhang at the University of Texas.
Dr Baughman says the carbon nanotube yarns are 'truly
exciting' and with some achievable modifications,
the nanotube spinning process seems suitable for
high-value commercial products.
'These might eventually range from artificial muscles,
electronic textiles, antiballistic clothing, and
satellite tethers to filaments for high-intensity
X-ray and light sources, and yarns for energy storage
and generation that are weaveable into textiles.'
at CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology are now working
on producing the nanotubes in greater quantities.
Mr Atkinson says: 'If you've ever seen a textile
plant, you'll know that milligrams and grams aren't
much use to you – you need kilograms
and tonnes. So we've been trying to develop a process
to produce much larger quantities of nanotubes.'
For further information contact:
Email: Solve@csiro.au Web: www.csiro.au
Freecall: 1300 363 400 International: +61 3 9545 2176