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Move Over, Sewing! Scientists Discover Self-Healing Fabric Using Special Liquid

Aug 13, 2016 04:39 AM EDT

Imagine a world where your torn clothes could fix themselves without the need to sew them. Now, it's possible. A team of scientists has created a self-healing textile using a special liquid.

According to a study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, researchers from Penn State University made this discovery by creating a liquid combination of bacteria and yeast to bind fabric together.

"Fashion designers use natural fibers made of proteins like wool or silk that are expensive and they are not self-healing. We were looking for a way to make fabrics self-healing using conventional textiles. So we came up with this coating technology," engineering science and mechanics professor Melik Demirel told Penn State News.

The self-healing fabric is created by dipping it for multiple times in the said "special" liquid, creating layers over layers of material that could repair itself. The said coating, called polyelectrolyte, consists of positive and negatively charged polymers.

"We currently dip the whole garment to create the advanced material. But we could do the threads first, before manufacturing if we wanted to," said Demirel.

CNN Money reports that to repair a torn fabric, you just have to apply warm water on the torn area and press the edges together. Just like magic, the self-healing fabric will reattach and repair on its own.

The "special liquid," according to Demirel, is similar to the protein found in squid tentacles.

"Squid is a limited resource. So we needed to replicate this unique property found in squid protein using biotechnology and other substances," he said.

What's more exciting is that the "special liquid," when applied to any torn fabric, does not affect its quality and is strong enough for machine wash.

According to Demeril, this breakthrough discovery could help in improving protective clothing used by farmers, military and medical practitioners. It could also be an efficient way to extend the life of clothes and minimize the amount of discarded clothing.

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