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Scientists take inspiration from spiders with new, ultra-strong 'smart textile' technology: '[It] fulfills an unmet need'

The researchers behind this project took inspiration from spider webs to make better fibers.

Ultra-strong ‘smart textile’ technology

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Scientists have taken inspiration from spiders to create an innovative new "smart textile" fiber technology.

Researchers from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the National University of Singapore's College of Design and Engineering made a breakthrough in creating synthetic fibers, according to CleanTechnica

Prior methods of creating these synthetic fibers necessitated a lot of energy, pressure, chemicals, and equipment, and the fibers were more limited in their applications. They also have proved difficult to produce under ambient conditions — standard room temperature and atmospheric pressure, according to Nature.com.

The researchers behind this project took inspiration from spider webs to make better fibers, following the spiders' example and creating fibers that transition from a gel state to a solid state, according to Nature.com. This process greatly reduces the amount of energy necessary to make the fibers and also decreases the steps in the process once the fiber has been spun. The fibers are strong, stretchy, and conductive to electricity, according to CleanTechnica.

CleanTechnica notes that the researchers' new process basically allows the initial gel phase to transition to a solid fiber phase by exposing the material to air, which makes the liquid part of the gel fall away.

Using the fibers, the scientists created an interactive glove that could be used for gaming and also made a smart face mask, according to Nature.com

One of the biggest advantages of these new fibers is that they're recyclable — researchers found that they can be dissolved and converted into a gel form that could then be used to make more fibers, according to CleanTechnica.

"This innovative method fulfils an unmet need to create a simple yet efficient spinning approach to produce functional 1D soft fibres that simultaneously possess unified mechanical and electrical functionalities," said assistant professor Swee-Ching Tan, the leader of the study.

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