A group of scientists from Germany and Israel has developed a method of growing a vegetable fiber with “built-in” properties, including magnetism or the ability to glow in the ultraviolet light. An article about the study was published in the journal Science.
Right now, there are several “smart” fabrics with different properties, like changing color or generating electricity. However, the complex composition makes clothes, sewn from such fabrics, expensive and unreliable. To solve this problem, Israeli and German scientists proposed to use ordinary cotton fabric but cotton must be grown with necessary properties in advance.
The study is based on the fact that the cellulose fibers consist of glucose molecules, which contains six carbon atoms. Scientists suggested that a certain molecule can be attached to a free carbon atom transferring its properties to it. During the experiment, scientists successfully used a carboxyfluorescein molecule (fluorescence) and an inorganic appendage with dysprosium (magnetism). As a result, the grown fibers had these properties too.
It’s not yet known if the proposed method of creating “smart” fiber suits for cotton grown on farms, but the concept itself, according to scientists, can be used for making any natural fabrics (silk, linen, etc.) with particular qualities.