Hate it when your favorite jeans rip? The days of patching up your ripped clothing with sewing kits may soon be over. Scientists at Penn State are currently working on a special liquid that essentially allows your everyday clothes to repair themselves.

Self-Healing Fabric
Image Source: YouTube Video Screenshot

Ripped clothing may be a thing of the past

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have created a fabric-coating technology made from squid ring teeth that allows conventional textiles to self-repair. The self-healing properties of the proteins in squid ring teeth can be replicated to produce a solution that can mend materials on its own and can even protect against chemicals.

“Fashion designers use natural fibers made of proteins like wool or silk that are expensive and they are not self-healing,” said Melik Demirel, a professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State. “We were looking for a way to make fabrics self-healing using conventional textiles. So we came up with this coating technology.”

This special coating allows everyday fabrics, such as wool and cotton, to bind back together when water and pressure is applied. Using this technology would essentially allow an item of clothing with this coating to be repaired by simply putting it in the washing machine.

The squid proteins were reproduced in a solution of yeast and bacteria, which can then be applied to a tear in a fabric. When warm water is added and the torn edges are pressed together, the fabric seams itself back together.

Protection from potentially harmful chemicals

Additionally, during the coating process, enzymes can be added to the solution that break down certain chemicals on contact. “If you need to use enzymes for biological or chemical effects, you can have an encapsulated enzyme with self-healing properties degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin,” said Demirel.

Researchers have stated that the solution could be best applied to chemically protective suits for people such as factory workers in toxic environments, farmers using pesticides, or even soldiers at risk of chemical or biological attacks.

“The coatings are thin, less than a micron, so they wouldn’t be noticed in everyday wear,” said Demirel. “Even thin, they increase the overall strength of the material. For the first time, we are making self-healing textiles.”

While we can’t know how soon this coating will be available to the public, its development is certainly an exciting one. Practical applications for everyday use as well as potentially life-saving properties make this self-healing coating and extremely attractive scientific development.