Smart dust: sci-fi applications enabled by synthetic fiber and textiles technology

Joan Farrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the field of materials design research there is an increasing interest in an amalgamation of the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and maths in order to focus upon smart fiber and textile innovation for human and environmental applications. What may seem sci-fi solutions for a raft of different problems have at the core innovative man-made textiles and technologies, and are becoming the zeitgeist of many international research and development sectors with the promise of as yet unknown applications and commercial opportunities. In 2007 Ohmatex's White Paper on Smart Textiles reported that in 2005 smart and interactive fabrics were worth US$340 million with a compound growth rate of 28.3 percent per year which became US$642 million in 2008 and has continued to rise. Today there is a paradigm shift in research activity due to technical developments in miniaturization at nano-scale, coupled with improved sensor networks and the creation of new composites to enable the creation of smart technologies for integration into soft engineering products for the body and the built environment. These innovations are enabled in many cases by traditional textile design thinking and product development such as the creation of synthetic nano fiber polymers, to incorporate ubiquitous computing into textiles which have immediate applications that include health-monitoring, active insulation, personal communication, environmental sensors, and security. The enhancement of integral nano-innovations such as self-cleaning, water repellence, thermal regulation, “breathability,” and materials that stiffen on impact or change shape are part of the textile future. Smart Dust is in this vanguard area, where the combination of synthetic textile polymer and pervasive and adaptive computing knowledge is emergent and highly technical in relation to applications. Here the objective is to move toward seamless invisible integration of technology, thereby producing products and services which are responsive to the external and human environment and which may ultimately contributing to wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-347
Number of pages6
JournalTextile: Journal of Cloth and Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


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