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Posted: January 7, 2008

The INTELTEX project: Creating smart, multifunctional materials

(Nanowerk News) Developing smart, multifunctional materials that can be used in protective clothing, medical applications and buildings is the goal of the EU-funded INTELTEX ('Intelligent multi-reactive textiles integrating nano-filler based CPC-fibres') project.
The four year initiative, which started in September 2006, is funded under the 'Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and new production technologies' (NMP) thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). It brings together 12 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and six research centres. Over €4.5 million of the project's €7 million budget comes from the EU.
The project partners aim to develop three demonstration applications by the end of the project in 2010. A fabric designed for use in buildings will be able to detect cracks and temperature changes in the walls and leakages on the floor. In the medical field, a material for monitoring body temperature is under development. Firefighters are the subject of the third demonstration project, which involves protective clothing designed to monitor near skin temperature, exterior temperature and mechanical stress as well as the presence of toxic substances.
'There are three ways to approach sensors and textiles,' said Frédéric Luizi, Research and Development Director at Nanocyl, the Belgian company which is coordinating the project. The first two ways involve applying an intelligent coating to the surface of a fabric or a yarn respectively. The third option is to integrate the intelligent material into the yarn itself; this is the option favoured by the INTELTEX consortium.
Nanocyl is able to produce carbon nanotubes on an industrial scale. Adding these nanotubes to the mix which will make up the yarn gives the yarn electrical conductivity properties. As factors such as temperature or pressure change, the nanotubes inside the yarn move around and the conductivity of the yarn changes.
This change in conductivity can be picked up by the clothing. Dr Luizi gave the example of a beam falling on a fireman wearing pressure-sensitive clothing. Smart clothing could register the pressure change and send a signal to the fireman's team leader, for example.
Just 1% of the yarn mix needs to be made up of nanotubes for them to have the required effect. Furthermore, in a spool of thread, just one yarn in 20 needs to have conductive properties. So far the project partners have focused on demonstrating the conductivity of these SMART threads. One year into the project, Dr Luizi is pleased with the results so far. 'As you can see, we're working very actively,' he commented.
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Source: Cordis
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