Fashion, ageing and the future


    Ania Sadkowska’s beautifully-crafted clothing explores the intersection of sociology, psychology and art and design practices. Her recent work: Fashioning Age: A phenomenological exploration of older men’s experience of fashion and clothing, shows how ordinary clothing can be transformed into something different and special. And it takes place in the same department as the Advanced Textiles Research Group’s investigations into methods of fitting electronics within textiles and clothing.  Ania writes about her work: ‘As a concept-led fashion and textiles practitioner I believe that the human body and embodied experiences are the never-ending sources of inspiration; my interest in fashion as a communication tool, as well as interdisciplinary approach, underpins each and every one of my projects. By combining sophisticated craftsmanship with contemporary and innovative technologies in the exploration of ageing as a biological, psychological and social phenomenon, I attempt to push the boundaries of fashion and art, and to position myself as a fashion and textiles designer, artist and researcher.’ 

    There are rich possibilities for collaboration in the School of Art and Design: the clothes of the future can be designed here combining fashion, innovation and technology.

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Mixing high-tech functionality with traditional good looks

Dark, square solar cells can look good in windows, but it took some research to find out how to make these materials that generate electricity fit into colourful, decorative glazing. Stained glass and other types of ornamental glazing brighten up many buildings. But with increasing concerns about the impact that buildings have on the environment, there’s a need to ensure that every part of the architecture contributes to a building’s energy performance, including the glazing. Putting solar cells into windows to generate electricity seems an obvious step, as adding solar cells to a building is the best way to use architecture to generate electricity. But it is tricky to fit these high-tech materials into glazing designs that also look good and let in some light.

Whilst finishing her PhD at Heriot-Watt University, Dorothy Hardy wrote a paper about her stay at Peters Glass Studios in Paderborn, Germany: a world leader in restoration of stained glass and in fitting solar cells into decorative glass. The paper describes how Dorothy used glass paint to disguise solar cells within decorative glazing designs. The trick was to surround the square cell shapes with dark paint so that when light shines through the windows, the square shapes are then disguised within patterns of paint. Adding reflective, platinum paint onto the glass behind the solar cells gave a way of hiding the backs of the solar cells whilst bouncing light back into the design. The paper is free for anyone to access from the Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning:

The photos here show the basic method of surrounding a solar cell with glass paint to disguise the shape once it is held up to the light, as well as the colourful window that Dorothy designed and made. This contains fluorescent dyes within the sticky, encapsulant material that hold the solar cells in place between two panes of glass.

The challenges of fitting high-tech into traditional continue with Dorothy’s work at Nottingham Trent University. Here, in the Advanced Textile Research Group, there is work on fitting electronics into textiles. This gives many possibilities for making functional devices part of clothing that looks and feels good to wear. One important area of research is to find ways of using textiles to make life easier for those with chronic medical conditions: incorporating electronic devices within clothing, so that medical devices can be disguised within comfortable and fashionable clothing.

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Stretching and compressing advanced textiles

James King from Zwick/Roell visited last week to teach the Advanced Textile Research Group more about use of our tensile tester. That’s the machine on the right in the photo, set up to pull on a long, thin sample until it breaks. This machine pulls or compresses materials to find their durability. We are creating tests for electronic textiles to ensure that these can survive knitting and weaving processes, then repeated wearing, washing and drying.zwick_courseFB

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Dr Ekael Mbise travels from cold to hot!

This week the group are wishing Dr Ekael Mbise happy travels as he leaves the Advanced Textile Research Group. Ekael’s work in Nottingham involved building a machine with adjacent hot and cold chambers so that he could assess moisture flow through fabrics placed between the chambers. He seems to be taking his research to extremes by himself travelling from the cold Nottingham winter to the heat of Tanzania. His research gave a way of assessing the best fabric designs for use during outdoor activities in cold weather. Ekael is second from right in the photo, enjoying a ‘Goodbye to Nottingham’ meal.


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Progress for functional electronic textiles

The latest Star Wars film was eschewed in favour of videos of an LED switching on and off and an electronic yarn being see-sawed to destruction when the Advanced Textile Research Group met with their partner team from the University of Southampton last week. The two groups work together on the Functional Electronic Textiles project, finding methods of manufacturing electronic textiles. This includes testing electronic yarns to destruction. The photo shows the yellow, cushioned jaws of a tensile tester that is used to help find out if electronic yarns are sufficiently strong to survive being made up into textiles and then being worn.yellow_jaws

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Recent PhD success in the Advanced Textile Research Group


Here are three members of the Advanced Textile Research Group who have had recent PhD successes. On the left is Dr Ekael Mbise who has just conducted a successful defence of his thesis on ‘The Development of a Quick Dry Fabric for Outdoor Garments’. The thesis explains Ekael’s research on development of an active fabric to keep the wearer drier when sweating occurs. The technology works through control of the hydrostatic pressure difference through application of heat to one side of an inner, knitted, spacer fabric. This leads to the inner side of the fabric being kept as dry as possible.

Dr Dorothy Hardy is in the centre of the group in the photo. She recently graduated from Heriot-Watt University after completion of her thesis entitled ‘Integrating Crystalline-Silicon Photovoltaic Cells into Decorative Glazing’. This research found ways of fitting solar cells into decorative windows to create a modern version of stained glass that generates electrical power. This involved both development of artistic designs and finding methods of incorporating brightly-coloured, fluorescent dyes into the encapsulant ‘glue’ that holds solar cells in place between sheets of glass. This experience in mixing artistic and scientific research is now being carried forward into Dorothy’s work to test electronic yarns and then integrate them into functional textiles that will appeal to wearers.

Anura Rathnayake is on the right of the photo. His thesis on ‘Development of the Core Technology for the Creation of Electronically-Active Smart Yarn’ was recently submitted. The aim of this work was the development of the core technology for embedding functional semiconductor devices within the fibres of a yarn, in order to create electronically-active yarns. These yarns could then be processed via the conventional textile manufacturing techniques into smart fabrics and garments.  These electronically-active yarns will be the building blocks of the next generation of wearable electronics.

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Size Matters: Exploring the Future of Nano Science

The Advanced Textile Research Group exhibited prototypes, had a tour of labs, and discussed product development at the ‘Size Matters: Exploring the Future of Nano Science’ event, at Nottingham Trent University Clifton Campus on 29th September 2015. The event was organised by LATI:

‘In 2015, LATi and Nottingham Trent University formed a collaborative partnership designed to encourage collaboration between LATi members and NTU staff, students and business partners.’

The presentations included one from Richard Price of Pragmatic, seen here second from left in the photo on the right. Pragmatic produce flexible integrated circuits that can overcome cost and size limitations of conventional silicon chips:
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Meeting with industry partners at International Automotive Components

Innovations in electronic textiles are guided by the requirements of industry. This ensures that developments can happen in a wide range of areas such as clothing for athletes and development of wound dressings. There are also many possibilities for the use of electronic textiles within vehicle interiors. When the Advanced Textile Research Group met with industry partners and colleagues from the University of Southampton, safety overshoes were on hand, ready for a tour of the shop floor at IAC, Elmdon Trading Estate, where the process of assembling automotive parts was explained:

Dorothy Hardy gave a presentation on the work carried out by the Advanced Textile Research Group, highlighting the challenges and progress in incorporation of electronic components within yarn.

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Stoll AG and Co and the Advanced Textile Research Group

A delegation from Stoll AG and Co. KG, Reutlingen, Germany recently visited the Advanced Textile Research Group, in order to understand how electronic yarn technology can be integrated into knitted garments.


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Anura Rathnayake presents electronic textiles at ISWC 2015 in Osaka, Japan

Anura Rathnayake of the Advanced Textile research Group presenting his PhD work on electronic textiles at ISWC 2015, Osaka Japan:

Anura took a garment containing miniature LED’s within yarns and a shirt with a hidden RFID tag.


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