Nanotechnology is developing rapidly, to the point where wearable smart clothing has become a real possibility. Merging electronics with textiles, in the past smart clothing has rarely been praised for its aesthetics, but this is all set to change.

The high costs and lack of awareness associated with smart clothing have created challenges for manufacturers, but despite these issues, garments which prevent injuries, monitor health, and even measure the physiological activity of a person are entering the market. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the future of smart clothing.

Smart clothing will react to humidity and temperature automatically

You may not know this, but humans release and absorb heat through infrared radiation. As such, researchers are developing clothing that automatically adjusts to body temperature and humidity. This means there will be no need to take off or wear additional clothing when you feel hot or cold. Depending on the weather, the garments will either insulate or cool your body accordingly.

How does this work exactly? Well, smart clothing is embedded with infrared-sensitive yarns which are coated with nanotubes – these nanotubes constrict or expand, which is why it’s possible to have a single garment for a wide range of temperatures and activities.

Smart clothing will be resilient and comfortable

Smart garments sound very appealing, but resilience is still a big issue – there’s a wide range of things that could damage the garments. For instance, how the fabrics will be washed and dried needs to be considered, and sweaty workouts could pose a similar challenge.

Although the copper and stainless steel used for the conductive fibres can be very stiff, some researchers have come up with silver nanowires. This not only offers excellent mechanical strength but also uniform morphology and high conductivity. These could be used in place of steel and copper for more flexibility.

Besides this, some researchers are coming up with more ways to make clothing interact with people through touch. These types of garments will actually talk to the wearer through haptic stimulation.

Ultimately, smart clothing is proving to be very promising – it’s certainly an emerging market that’s worth keeping an eye on.

Photo: t-shirt store by Marc oh! licensed under Creative Commons 4.0