This Liquid Helps Torn Clothing Mend Itself

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Researchers at Penn State University have developed a new liquid that self-repairs textiles. Find out how it works, and which other uses it could have.

Does self-healing clothing sound like something you’d see on “The Jetsons,” or maybe in a sci-fi movie? Well, think again.

Thanks to science, the days of throwing out your favorite clothes due to rips or tears may soon come to an end.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have developed a biodegradable liquid material — using bacteria and yeast — that can be used to help fabrics self-repair by allowing fabric to quickly bind to itself. No sewing necessary. In a press release, Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State, says:

“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.”

Here’s how it works: A tiny amount of the liquid is applied to a fabric tear, and then warm water is applied. You hold the edges of the fabric together for a minute or so, and it reattaches itself and self-repairs.

The liquid sounds like a great tool for moms of kids who are hard on their clothes, or people who need to mend a clothing item, but can’t sew. But there is also a potential commercial use for the liquid.

Demirel says the liquid could be used as a self-healing film for textiles and contain specific enzymes that break down toxic material. Then it could be used in manufacturing, farming or the military, helping protect workers and soldiers from hazardous chemicals.

Demirel’s research was partly funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Army Research Office. He says:

“Science happens in small steps. The next step would be to see if clothes can self-repair when we pour the liquid into a washing machine, like you would a detergent, and apply water and heat.”

What do you think of Demirel’s self-repairing clothing fix? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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