a team of researchers at MIT has designed a breathable workout suit with ventilating flaps that open and close in response to an athlete’s body heat and sweat. the flaps—which range from thumbnail to finger-sized—cover the surface of the suit’s fabric like scales. the ventilating flaps are lined with live microbial cells that shrink and expand in response to changes in humidity. the cells act as tiny sensors and actuators, driving the flaps to open when an athlete works up a sweat, and pulling them closed when the body has cooled down.


image courtesy of MIT/  hannah cohen

 

 

the fabric—dubbed bioLogic—has been created by printing lines of e.coli cells onto sheets of latex to create a ‘biofabric’ which was then worked into a wearable garment. the team evem tailored the size of each flap, as well as the degree to which they open, based on previously published maps of where the body produces heat and sweat. ‘we used a fustion of heat and sweat maps to design the garment’ explains bioLogic project co-leader and MIT graduate lining yao, ‘making the flaps bigger where the body generates more heat.’

 

 

support frames underneath the fabric keep its inner cell layer from directly touching the skin, while at the same time, the cells are able to sense and react to humidity changes in the air lying just over the skin. when tested, the fabric  suit’s flaps started opening up, right around the time when participants reported feeling warm and sweaty. according to sensor readings, the flaps effectively removed sweat from the body and lowered skin temperature, more so than when participants wore a similar running suit with nonfunctional flaps.

 

 

the researchers behind the project claim that the moisture-sensitive cells require no additional elements to sense and respond to humidity. for anyone put off by the thought of bacterial-clad clothes, fear not—the cells have been proven to be perfectly safe to touch, and even to consume. the idea for future production of the fabric is to use new genetic engineering tools available today, cells can be prepared quickly and in vast quantities to express multiple functionalities in addition to moisture response. the team have already experimented with adding cells that cause the fabric to light up in dark conditions.

 

 

‘we can combine our cells with genetic tools to introduce other functionalities into these living cells,’ expains wen wang, the paper’s lead author and former research scientist at MIT media lab and department of engineering. ‘we use fluorescence as an example, and this can let people know you are running in the dark. in the future we can combine odor-releasing functionalities through genetic engineering. so—maybe after going to the gym—the shirt can release a nice-smelling odor!’

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.

    technology news