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Health Team

NCSU creates clothing with UV protection

Posted August 17, 2011 1:44 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2011 6:21 p.m. EDT

— Designing affordable, ultraviolet-resistant clothing that lessens wearers' risk of skin cancer is the goal of North Carolina State University researchers.

The researchers began by imagining clothing that acts like a computer. They developed clothing fibers with a microscopic coating of the same conductive material found on computer chips.

The team discovered another potential benefit – "to be able to impart UV protection on different fabrics," NCSU textile engineering researcher Chris Oldham said.

The fabric coating resists the sun's UV rays, which can prevent fading of outdoor materials such as flags. It might also be used on clothing to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

UV-resistant fabrics already on the market can be expensive.

"They are looking for a more affordable product that will protect them in the sunlight," Oldham said.

Rather than dipping fabrics in an oil-based liquid solution, NCSU researchers heated chemicals into gas form that deposits a coating 1,000 times thinner a human hair. The process might work on a wide range of lightweight, summer-time fabrics.

"What we're trying to do is use greener materials like cotton and recycled polyesters and make those feel the same and also act the same as some of these high-end, UV-resistant fabrics," NCSU textile engineering researcher Jesse Jur said.

In addition to protecting people from the sun, the clothing could be used as a sensor to track heart rate and body temperature in real time.

The NCSU Chancellor's Innovation Fund recently awarded a $75,000 grant to get the technology into the market more quickly.