New Liquid Could Allow Torn Clothes to Self-Repair

shutterstock_95135014We’ve all been there before – that gut-wrenching moment when you tear your favorite shirt or pair of pants. So, what do you do? Unless it’s a tear in the seam, it can be difficult to fix – you may just accept your loss and toss the item. However did you know that Americans throw out 82 pounds of textiles every year? And usually, these items end up in landfills. Penn State University researchers are attempting to combat this issue – all while letting you keep your beloved clothing — with the help of a polyelectrolyte liquid that may allow torn clothes to self-repair.

The research team is led by Melik Demirel, a professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State. The liquid is biodegradable and made from bacteria and yeast. The process is simple: apply a small amount of the liquid to the tear, apply warm water, and press the edges together.  Wa-lah –Just like that your pesky tear is fixed! The liquid creates a polyelectrolyte coating, which is made up of positively and negatively charged polymers.

Manufacturers can also pre-coat textiles in the liquid – allowing the self-repair ability to be built into the material. The liquid (which still hasn’t been named) has properties similar to protein in human hair, nails and squid tentacles. “Squid is a limited resource. So we needed to replicate this unique property found in squid protein using biotechnology and other substances,” Demirel said in a statement.

The team has tested the liquid on common fabrics like cotton, wool and polyester. Fabrics treated with the liquid withstood time in washing machines and fabric quality was not altered.

And while this new liquid may be extremely appealing to people who can’t sew or are rough on clothing, its capabilities span far beyond typical everyday uses. Researchers hope the liquid can be utilized to protect individuals working with pesticides and other hazardous chemicals. According to CNN ‘“It could help improve protective clothing worn by soldiers, medical staff, even farmers,” [Demirel] said.

Researchers are still learning more about the product, and are interested if the liquid can withstand detergent, among other things.  As exciting as this advancement is, don’t jump in your car and rush to the nearest store in hopes of finding this product, as it isn’t commercially available yet.  It looks like you may have to hold onto your needle and thread just a little bit longer!