Shape-changing textiles powered only by body heat

College of Science and Engineering, October 30, 2019

UMN shape-changing smart textiles

A new study at the University of Minnesota’s Design of Active Materials and Structures Lab details the development of a temperature-responsive textile that can be used to create self-fitting garments powered only by body heat.

The study, led by graduate students Kevin Eschen and Rachael Granberry and MnDRIVE researchers Julianna Abel and Brad Holschuh, was recently published in Advanced Materials Technologies

"This is an important step forward in the creation of robotic textiles for on-body applications,” said Holschuh. “It’s particularly exciting because it solves two significant problems simultaneously—how to create usable actuation, or movement, without requiring significant power or heat, and how to conform a textile or garment to regions of the body that are irregularly shaped.” 

The textiles resemble typical knits, except they are created using a special category of active materials—known as shape memory alloys (SMAs)—which change shape when heated. 

 "This technology required advancements on multiple scales," said Abel, a Benjamin Mayhugh assistant professor of mechanical engineering.