A UK start-up has unveiled the world’s first fibres that significantly improve the breathability of textiles in response to moisture. INOTEK fibres alleviate the feeling of dampness by increasing the permeability of yarns and textiles as moisture builds up around them. This new technology will enable manufacturers of items like sports clothing, base layers, underwear, socks and bedding fabrics to bring new products to market that improve the comfort of their customers by keeping them dryer for longer and getting them dry quicker in extreme conditions.
The technology has been developed by leading academic Dr Veronika Kapsali, co-founder of MMT Textiles and an expert in clothing comfort and biomimetic materials. The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre in Massachusetts have tested a range of textiles using INOTEK patented fibres and validated all the resulting data.
Everyone who has worked up a sweat at the gym or been stuck on a crowded underground train on a humid day will know the discomfort caused by damp clothes. The sensation is particularly evident when moving into a cold environment as frequently happens when you leave the gym on a cold evening or when leaving your train on your daily commute.
Current smart textile systems aiming to reduce the discomfort caused by moving between hot and cold environments generally rely on temperature as a stimulus. However Dr Veronika Kapsali’s research revealed that managing the impact of humidity itself is a much more effective trigger in reducing levels of discomfort. The breathability of INOTEK textiles improves gradually from the first point of elevated relative humidity up to optimum performance at the point of saturation. The risk of sweat stained clothing is, therefore, dramatically reduced.
INOTEK’s adaptive technology is inspired by the botanical structure of pine cones which open and close in response to moisture levels. Conventional fibres swell as they absorb moisture. Wool expands by up to 30% of its original width when wet. This causes the yarn to swell, reducing the permeability of the textile structure.
INOTEK fibres do the complete opposite. As the textile begins to absorb moisture, the fibres start to close (mimicking the pine cone) and reduce in volume causing yarn to thin three-dimensionally in the cross-section. Microscopic air pockets are opened in the textile and this increases its breathability. In contrast to pure wool, an INOTEK/wool blended yarn can reduce its thickness by up to 10% of its original width in damp conditions.
The reactive response to humidity is also reversible. INOTEK fibres revert back to their original state in dry conditions, reducing air permeability and increasing insulation of the textile.
Dr Kapsali says: “The textile and fashion world is always looking for innovation and there is growing interest in the application of biological processes to make clothes more comfortable and practical. Ventilation is one area where we can learn much from successful adaptations in nature. INOTEK fibre technology mimics the systems found in pine cones by responding to levels of humidity in the micro-climate. We call this the ‘pine cone effec ".