Chemical and biomolecular engineer Juan Hinestroza and his team in the textiles nanotechnology lab are adding tiny bits of metal into fibrous material like cotton. When woven into a textile, the augmented yarn can produce light, kill disease-causing microbes or act as a filter to trap harmful gas. In addition, the metal oxides allow the yarn to be fashioned into conductive components like transistors for electronics.
“We want to transform traditional natural fibers into true engineering materials that are multifunctional and that can be customized to any demand,” Hinestroza said. “We are chemists, we are material scientists, we are designers, we want to create materials that will perform many functions, yet remain as flexible and as comfortable as a t-shirt or an old pair of jeans.”