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Wearing a solar powered shirt or biosensing pants is cool and all, but cleaning the garments is not an easy process to contend with. However that problem just might be solved with a new type of ‘electronic yarn’ created by scientists from the Nanotech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas. To do this, the scientists use a powder made of conductive materials (guest particles) in research-speak- that gets soaked or sprayed as an aerosol into a matrix of nanotubes. They then put magnets on each end of the matrix and spin it until the nanotubes form a fiber thick enough to weave into a textile and keep the powder in. The final nanotube yarn can be incorporated into other fiber and textile products, including clothing, and washed without losing a significant amount of the powder. So far, the yarn holds up in tests. The researchers tried washing it in a standard washing machine as well as soaking it for three hours at high temperature. In neither case did they detect loss of the power. This immediately seems like great news for the average consumer who wants a shirt-operated music player or a light up skirt, but nanotube yarn that withstands the elements is also great news for engineers as it could be used for superconducting linear motors, batteries, supercapacitors and hydrogen storage systems. Theoretically the thin conducting skins that could be woven with this material could also have applications in stealth aircraft, as the material would be an ultralight radio-frequency radiation absorber that could fool radar systems.


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