In a future not so far away, we’ll wear clothes that change color on command, charge our phones with miniature solar collectors, and never streak or fade. Our threads will filter the air of contaminants, block toxic gases, quash bacteria, and completely resist stains That’s the gospel according to says Juan P. Hinestroza, a fiber scientist at Cornell University. But directing a team of researchers at the school’s Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory isn’t enough. Hinestroza also has his sights on bringing his work to designers in New York City’s historic Garment District, where he hopes to merge cutting-edge technologies with high-end fashion.
Presenting his findings to a group of reporters at Cornell’s ILR Conference Center in Midtown on Tuesday, Hinestroza shared his vision of wearable technology’s future. As outrageous as the concepts sound, they’re not merely conjecture, he said. Scientists are already doing remarkable things with layers of particles only 20 nanometers thick, or 2,500 times thinner than a strand of human hair. “We believe that nanotechnology is another industrial revolution,” he added.
Hinestroza is creating an invisibility cloak that would its the wearer undetectable to wearing night-vision goggles.
Hinestroza presented some of the prototypes his students designed, including a hoodie-cum-face-mask that uses “smart cotton” to trap carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases so athletes can breathe better. Another project, a sweater, changes color at the touch of a button by scrambling the molecular structure of electrified nanoparticles. A futuristic dress charges cellphones and iPods without a power outlet.
Still others are developing super-insulating T-shirts that could replace bulky winter clothes, as well as uniforms incapable of getting stained or wet. Not to be outdone, Hinestroza is creating an invisibility cloak that would render its wearer undetectable to night-vision goggles.
At present, Cornell is looking to build a new campus on Roosevelt Island, which could put Hinestroza much closer to one of the world’s foremost fashion capitals. “I think it would make a major difference to work more with designers,” he said.