Juan Hinestroza, Cornell University fiber science pioneer, has a mission to bring nanotechnology to the clothing industry. Imagine clothes that can change color with the press of a button, repel stains, kill bacteria and charge your cell phone. “We believe that nanotechnology is another industrial revolution,” he said, describing the melding of textiles with the most cutting-edge technology. In less than a decade Hinestroza expects nanotechnology to be commonplace in the clothing industry.
In his Ithaca Textiles Nanotechnology Lab, students have designed a prototype of an athletic hoodie made from “smart cotton” technology that can trap carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases so runners can clean the air as they breathe it.
One student has designed a coat made from conductive cotton that can charge cell phones and iPods using solar power without ever needing a plug. Other projects in the works include cotton T-shirts that are as insulating as a winter coat, uniforms incapable of getting wet or stained and sweaters that can change color at the press of a button, by changing the molecular structure of the particles the sweater is made of. The same molecular technology would also allow scientists to create suits colored without dye so they never fade.
The scientists are also working on Invisible markers that can be used to identify materials that are often counterfeited, such as a real designer purse, from a fake.