British textiles firm Terrys Fabrics has invented a yarn that can conduct electricity. This yarn can be woven directly into items of clothing to create an e-textile that will serve as a power source.
At the moment, this special textile is intended to be used to create soldiers’ uniforms. It will allow soldiers to just take one battery with them and recharge it while away from their base,rather than having to carry many heavy and cumbersome batteries around with them.
It will have a huge benefit for the soldiers because they will be able to carry data and power with them wherever they go. Normal cables can break easily and cause people to lose access to the data, but the e-textiles can be designed in such a way that the information will be re-routed through the yarns should a breakage occur.
The yarn was invented by Surrey firm Intelligent Textiles and they started carrying out trials on the product earlier this summer. However, they say it could take until 2014 and 2015 before the new intelligent uniforms are in more widespread use.
While this e-textile may not seem like something the average consumer can use right now, it will surely only be a matter of time before such technology works its way into everyday fabrics.
After all, nylon was first produced as a silk replacement during World War Two and was used to make military products such as flak vests and parachutes. Of course, nylon went on to revolutionise the fashion and textiles industries throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Suddenly, designers were able to use the new synthetic fabric to create skirts that held pleats, curtains that could be died in bright colours and ladies stockings that no longer looked saggy and crinkly.
Textiles and science may seem to be worlds apart, but technological advances often change our popular culture and fashions. So how could e-textiles affect the way we live?
Well, we could begin to see jackets and handbags with the ability to recharge our iPods and mobile phones. We store so much data on our mobile phones now that we never would have dreamed possible a decade ago. In 10 years time, that information may be accessible from a watch strap or an item of clothing.
Textiles in the home could change too. The blinds and curtains you see now at http://www.terrysfabrics.co.uk may be able to store electronic information that tells them when to close and open - which would be very handy when away on holiday.
The possibilities are endless and may even seem fanciful and far-fetched to some. But when you look back at the impact that science breakthroughs have had on textiles in the past, it is hard not to be a little hopeful and excited.