London, Feb. 25: Sportswear with in-built cooling, shirts that shrug off the smell of tobacco smoke, suits that repel mosquitoes and socks that smell of flowers could be in the shops soon, following successful trials of “smart clothes”.
Quest International, of Ashford, Kent, and the Woolmark Company have found a way to package moisturiser, deodorant, fragrance, fresheners, vitamins, repellents or even anti-tobacco agents in particles that can be incorporated in any fabric.
A substance related to menthol, with refreshing background fragrance, can make clothing feel cool in hot weather. Another possible use is to impregnate a subtle fragrance in fabrics to help the fashion industry to stop sales of counterfeit clothing.
The technique uses micro-encapsulation, a well-established process in which tiny droplets or particles are wrapped with a capsule to prevent their evaporation, oxidation and contamination until release is triggered by gentle rubbing or shaking.
The advance, said Dr Keith Perring, of Quest, part of the chemicals giant ICI, has been to find a way to enable the technology to last up to 30 washes, paving the way to a number of mainstream uses.
Early trials have proved an “outstanding success” with companies interested in a host of products from aloe vera moisturisers and deodorisers to “signature scents”.
The company is also working on a way to spray on the microcapsules, whether to refresh the smell of clothing, or to treat carpeting, said Shibani Mohindra, its new business development director. “An air freshener, when you spray it, is gone in a few seconds. This keeps on working.”