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Surprising Science

Bring A Towel If You Wear This Fabric To The Gym

Two University of California-Davis graduate students have created a textile that uses microfluidic technology to direct liquid completely away from itself, which could result in extra-sweaty equipment.

What’s the Latest Development?


Siyuan Xing and Jia Jiang, graduate students working in the Micro-Nano Innovations Laboratory at the University of California-Davis, have designed a textile that is not only water-repelling but self-draining. It’s a combination of a hydrophobic fabric and water-attracting fibers stitched into patterns that act like channels. In tests, the patterns were able to “suck droplets of water from one side…propel them along the threads and expel them from the other side.” Even when the fabric is completely saturated, the water can drain completely away, leaving it dry and breathable. In addition, adjustments in the shape and placement of the patterns can determine where water collects and where it drains away.

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What’s the Big Idea?

Finding the perfect waterproof textile has long been a challenge for manufacturers and scientists. Xing and Jiang’s fabric takes advantage of microfluidics, a science used to create devices for medical applications. Xing says that they intentionally kept their design techniques simple “so it is compatible with the textile manufacturing process and very easy to scale up.” A paper describing the fabric appears in the journal Lab on a Chip.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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