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Research Highlights

Developing a Conductive Fibrous Scaffold with Electrical Feedback Capability

Conductive Fibrous Scaffold

Jessica M. Gluck and Amanda Mills

Developing a fibrous conductive material with electrical feedback capabilities will enable Drs. Jessica M. Gluck and Amanda Mills to study the effects of cardiac rhythm disorders in vitro at a cellular level. Currently, it is estimated more than 16.5 million people in the US suffer from a cardiac rhythm disorder, or a disruption in the normal electrical conduction governing the synchronous beating of your heart. This new conductive material will enable us to better understand how that synchronous beating rhythm is established in the developing heart by providing real-time electrical feedback based on individual cell’s beating behavior. We will also be able to “pace” cells using this system. This research yields foundational insights into rhythm disorder development, paving the way for durable treatment interventions to correct arrhythmias. (February 2024)

Modeling and Deactivating Aerosolized Pathogens

Aerosolized Pathogens

Kavita Mathur, Jessica M. Gluck, Warren Jasper, and Frank Scholle

Limited research and a lack of scientific understanding into the modes of transmission of pathogens on soft surfaces, as evidenced by the recent COVID19 pandemic, has led to poor public health outcomes and policies in the US and by the WHO. While vector and vehicle transmissions (soft surfaces and air) are the two major modes of transmission of pathogens, a fundamental understanding (i.e. predictive models) of vehicle transmission is not currently available. Drs. Mathur, Jasper, Gluck and Scholle are working together to evaluate the role of textiles in both the spread and capture of pathogens, deactivate these aerosolized pathogens, and develop effective strategies in combating their growth and transmission. Textiles, they assert, are an underutilized pivotal asset for advancing global health and preventing the spread of future epidemics and pandemics. (February 2024)

Structural Modification of Natural Dyes to Enhance Their Uptake on Hydrophobic Fibers Using Waterless Dyeing Methods

Modification of natural dyes diagram

Tova Williams

Structural modification of natural dyes is being explored by Professor Tova N. Williams to enhance their uptake on hydrophobic fibers such as polyester using waterless dyeing methods (e.g., supercritical carbon dioxide dyeing). This research is of interest, because there remains a need for environmentally friendly/sustainable solutions for the dyeing of textiles including methods that reduce or eliminate wastewater generated. Natural dyes have been recently heavily investigated for their potential to replace synthetic dyes in textile dyeing processes. However, there are practical limitations to utilizing the dyes in this respect, especially in waterless dyeing processes. Many natural dyes are glycosides, meaning they contain a sugar moiety attached to the dye chromogen. This attribute renders the dyes hydrophilic and less likely to be soluble in a nonaqueous medium and less likely to display affinity toward hydrophobic fibers. Consequently, structural modifications are necessary to enhance their hydrophobic character. Hence, Professor Williams’ research team is currently exploring different strategies to modify natural dyes and enhance their hydrophobicity including the use of enzymatic methods. (October 2023)

3D Virtual Simulation for Enhancing Older Adults’ Spatial Visualization Skills

3D virtual simulation

Chanmi Gloria Hwang

3D virtual simulation stimuli can enhance older adults’ spatial visualization skills. Spatial visualization is an important element of cognition and this ability in older adults influences their physical functions and psychological health. To address cognitive deficits among older adults, Drs. Chanmi Hwang (Textiles) and Jing Feng (Psychology) conducted an experimental online study with a total of 821 adults aged 60 and older with a customized 3D garment simulation intervention. Paper folding tests were administered before and after exposure to the stimuli and the results showed that the stimuli led to greater training gains in the experimental group. The activity of virtual fitting also brings opportunities for social interaction and increased enjoyment of online shopping experiences and provides insights for apparel retailers, which is significant given that older adults are a major target market due to their high purchasing power. (October 2023)

Development of Switchable Fluorescent Dyes for the Functional Super-Resolution Fluorescence Microscopy of DNA Nanofiber

DNA diagrams

Yang Zhang

Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, a Nobel-Prize-winning nanoscopic imaging technique can potentially reveal the interplay of nanoscopic environment and DNA nanofiber packing on gene expression (aka epigenetics). Each human cell nucleus contains 3 billion base pairs of nucleotides (nt) that form DNA nanofibers with a theoretical linear length of 2 meters. To fit into the 10-um size of a nucleus, DNA fibers fold into higher-order chromatin structures and the degree of packing is inversely related to the transcription activity, which fundamentally drives life processes and potentially regulates disease etiology. The ultrastructures and the surrounding environments of DNA nanofiber, which fundamentally underline epigenetics are yet largely unknown. Professor Yang Zhang is working to develop new super-resolution microscopy tools to visualize the nanoscopic functions of DNA and help the epigenetic study of this profound and societally-important biomedical problem. Specifically, his team is designing and synthesizing functional fluorescent DNA labels that are tailor-designed for super-resolution microscopy to highlight individual DNA fibers and outline the nanoscale architecture it resides in live cells.  (July 2023)

Wearable Evaporation-Driven Power Generators

Person wearing evaporation powered generator

Thomas Schroeder

Harvesting electricity from the evaporation of sweat is one possible approach to powering wearable electronic devices. Evaporation can drive the movement of water within micro- and nano-porous materials such as textiles. If the textile surfaces are sufficiently charged, this flow can give rise to usable or storable electrical energy in the form of so-called “streaming currents.” Professor Tom Schroeder and his team are working to develop power generation schemes to situate in apparel, where water from sweat can already be found evaporating. This approach belongs to a family of techniques that take advantage of gradients and flows that already exist in the environment to generate electricity without consuming additional resources. (July 2023)

Novel Textile-based Wearable Systems for Human-Machine Interaction

Novel Textile-based Wearable Systems for Human-Machine Interaction

Rong Yin, Kristin Thoney-Barletta, Amanda Mills, Warren Jasper, Yang Liu, and Andre West

Human-machine interfaces are one of the most critical emerging technologies identified by the federal government as particularly important to national security. Unlike conventional interfaces that are typically made of hard materials and can be uncomfortable to use, textile-based interfaces, on the other hand, are soft, flexible, and conformable to the user’s body or clothing, and offer new possibilities for sensing and actuation. But designing high-experience and human-centered smart wearable devices poses fundamental challenges (materials and fabrication, noise and interference, and so on) that have not been solved by existing approaches. Professors Rong Yin, Kristin Thoney-Barletta, Amanda Mills, Warren Jasper, Yang Liu, and Andre West are collaborating across disciplines to help overcome these challenges by developing a novel embroidery-based paradigm, predictive models with high accuracy, and system-level integration and applications. Innovation in this emerging area fits exactly with the fundamental research and education mission of the Wilson College, and it positions us as a global wearable research partner for the long term. (April 2023)

Development of a Super-resolution Optical Imaging Method to Quantify Cell-cell Junction Tightness

nanoscopic imaging

Yang Zhang, and Jessica M. Gluck

Integrating new nanoscopic imaging technologies and biomedical textiles can potentially provide a theragnostic platform for treating Glaucoma – a globally leading eye disease causing blindness. Currently, 12.7 million patients are waiting for corneal transplantation, one of the major treatments for severe Glaucoma, while only 1 in 70 of the needs are covered because of the limited corneal donor. Professors Yang Zhang and Jessica M. Gluck are working together to develop a rapid nanoscopic imaging platform to study and validate the nanoscopic functions of biomedical textiles-incorporated tissue-engineered constructs to serve as artificial cornea. This new platform offers an unprecedented opportunity to translate biomedical textiles into invaluable materials for human health. (January 2023)

Hydrogel Fibers for Functional Textiles

hydrogel fibers

Xiaomeng Fang, Jialong Shen, Thomas Schroeder, and Sonja Salmon

Hydrogels have unique responsive volume change and ionic conductivity capabilities that have led to their use for biomolecular separations, ionic circuitry, and stimuli-responsive actuators. Incorporating hydrogels into knit and woven technologies as fibers would open up a large design space of advanced textiles. Drs. Xiaomeng Fang, Jialong Shen, Thomas Schroeder, and Sonja Salmon are collaborating to develop new formulations and extrusion setups that overcome prior hydrogel limitations to achieve the required properties for machine processing as fibers. The physically robust hydrogel textiles developed will be tested for multifunctionality in selected applications, including as a host medium for enzymatic CO2 capture, and as future textile actuators. (January 2023)

Sewability Assessment of Conductive Yarns on Industrial Sewing Equipment

conductive yarn samples

Minyoung Suh

Highly conductive yarns open promising future for advanced functional textiles, but textile industry has been struggling with its processability. Dr. Minyoung Suh and her team evaluate the sewability of conductive yarns for engineered manufacturing of sewn and embroidered e-textiles. Numerous commercial conductive yarns were investigated under diverse sewing conditions and their sewability was evaluated from multiple sewability issues: bird-nesting, loose stitches, uneven stitches, etc.  Sewability models developed by machine learning enable predictions on unknown yarn sewability and suggestions of optimal sewing conditions for best performance. (October 2022)

Dopant-Free Hole Transporting Material for Commercialization of High Efficiency Perovskite Solar Cells

solar cell diagram

Ahmed El-Shafei

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are thin-film devices that harvest and convert solar energy into electricity. PSCs are a promising candidate for replacing silicon-based solar cells because of their simpler manufacturing process and lower cost. One of the major challenges that limit their commercialization is the instability of their components in air, at high temperature and the high cost of the hole transporting material (HTM) benchmark Spiro-OMeTAD. Professor Ahmed El-Shafei’s group is working on the development of efficient, photostable and thermally stable HTM for efficient and more stable PSCs to overcome the high cost and time-consuming synthesis of Spiro-OMeTAD, which limit their commercial application on a large-scale. Recently, they developed a promising HTM, codedSpiro-IA, that outperformed the benchmark dopant-free Spiro-OMeTAD in terms of power conversion efficiency (PCE), cost, long-term stability and conductivity. This new development can potentially lead to a new generation of dopant-free HTMs with the primary objective of exceeding PCE of 28% while achieving high photostability and thermal stability. (October 2022)

Accelerating Hemp as a Valuable and Sustainable Domestic Textile Fiber

hemp

Sonja Salmon, Rong Yin, Andre West, and David Suchoff

Domestic industrial hemp fiber production for textiles is an exciting opportunity that could help develop hemp as a sustainable new commodity crop for North Carolina, if the fiber can be processed to the right quality. Bottlenecks in selecting, growing and harvesting hemp are being addressed by the agricultural community, but this will not directly solve the critical issue for textiles, which is to obtain hemp fiber of specific controlled lengths. Equally important is the characterization and grading of hemp fiber quality to match staple production requirements. Professors Sonja Salmon, Rong Yin and Andre West (Textiles) and David Suchoff (Crop Sciences) are collaborating across campus and externally to help overcome these challenges by developing modern measurement methods, characterization techniques and sustainable processing approaches. Innovation with this “new” textile fiber matches our focus on sustainability and fits exactly with the fundamental research and education mission of our university. (July 2022)

Auxetic Knitting Fabrics for Comfortable and Durable Military Garments

A graphic showing the auxetic knitting fabric pre-production process

Andre West and Kun Luan

Auxetic knitting fabric possesses exceptional extensionality due to its unique fold structure and negative Poisson’s ratio. It shows enormous potentials in the employment of the military operational uniforms, which requires high stretchability. Dr. Andre West and Post-doctoral Research Scholar Dr. Kun Luan are working together with Advanced Cooling Technologies Inc. to design, produce and characterize auxetic fabrics by using Shima Sieki knitting system, finite element analysis software and Instron mechanical testing system. Those fabrics offer an accessible and sustainable approach to be incorporated into the design of comfortable and durable military garments. (May 2022)

High-throughput Textile Composting Test Method

hands holding soil

Sonja Salmon and Lori Rothenberg

Composting can convert otherwise unusable textile waste into a valuable agricultural resource–if you compost the right materials. Professors Sonja Salmon and Lori Rothenberg are studying both the chemistry and the adoption of compostability assessment as they develop a new high-throughput method. More efficient and accessible testing will increase the number and types of materials considered suitable for industrial composting as an alternative to landfill disposal. (April 2022)

Cytotoxicity evaluation of PFAS exposure related to firefighter protection

firefighters putting out house fire

Jessica M. Gluck, R. Bryan Ormond

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are commonly used for repellant textiles. While the large polymeric backbones should not pose significant health risks, the degradation or loss of the fluorinated side-chains through use and exposure to environmental stressors is a significant concern. This is of particular concern for firefighters, whose turnout gear find detectable levels of PFAS as exposure as materials burn, meaning this population is exposed to much higher concentrations for extended periods of time. At a cellular level, PFAS can alter membrane activity and lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, which in turn can lead to an elevated incidence of malignant cancers. In this project, Professors Jessica M. Gluck and R. Bryan Ormond aim to establish a sustainable long-term collaboration between our respective works in cellular biology and textile performance for firefighters to evaluate the unique risk posed by firefighter turnout gear. They believe this will lead to significant work to determine not only how PFAS exposure leads to increased incidences of cancer, but how to leverage that knowledge to develop better, more protective firefighter gear. (April 2022)

Deep Learning for Detecting Dermatological Issues and Certain Skin Diseases

A graphic showing deep learning results for three different skin disease clusters

Renzo Shamey

Deep Learning models are increasingly used to solve an array of industrial, clinical and other challenging problems. They have found several applications in the field of imaging and computer vision. Professor Renzo Shamey and his team are examining the application of deep learning algorithms to detect dermatological issues and certain skin diseases (such as melanoma, psoriasis etc.). After obtaining/generating a suitable database, images are analyzed and classified, the diseased area are segmented, and the colorimetric information of segmented images are extracted. This approach could facilitate accurate and effective communication of disease features among physicians and specialists to improve diagnosis. (February 2022)

Converting Waste Textiles to Valuable Recyclable Fibers and Renewable Fuel

Recyclable fibers

Sonja Salmon, Nelson Vinueza, Doug Call

Make the circular economy happen by converting waste textiles to valuable recyclable fibers and renewable fuel. Around 11 million tons of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) are disposed of in U.S. landfills annually. This waste contains complex blends of natural and synthetic fibers that are difficult to mechanically separate, as well as dyes and other chemicals that interfere with reuse. By using mild enzymatic and microbial methods, Professors Sonja Salmon and Nelson Vinueza (Textiles) and Doug Call (Environmental Engineering) are collaborating to divert PCTW from landfills by recovering cleaned non-degraded synthetic fibers from pumpable slurries of degraded natural fibers that can then be converted to biofuel by anaerobic digestion, while tracking the fate of chemical residuals. (January 2022)

Innovative and Resilient Defense Industrial Ecosystem for Smart Textiles

North Carolina Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program infographic

Andre West

The North Carolina Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program (NC DMCSP) is an innovative and resilient defense industrial ecosystem for smart textiles in NC. Funded by the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, Professor Andre West and his team collaborated with Industrial Extension Service to establish NC DMCSP to help small and medium-sized manufacturers become aware of, and explore the use of new technologies in their manufacturing processes. Such a digital transformation not only increases visibility and transparency in supply chains but also increases worker safety through semi or fully autonomous work cells, increases remote access to machines and monitoring systems, and expedites prototypes and testing of new designs or materials. The NC DMCSP Consortium currently consists of 18 partners that comprise five partnership organizations aligned to stated goals. (January 2022)

3D Printing for Fiber-reinforced Composites

A diagram showing two segments of an example fiber-reinforced composite

Abdel-Fattah M. Seyam, Kavita Mathur, S.M. Fijul Kabir

3D Printing (3DP) is an emerging technology that provide effective in developing complex 3D structures in layer-by-layer fashion with unlimited design flexibilities, customization, rapid prototyping, and automatic fabrication at relatively low cost and time due to reduction in process steps, which are often beyond the capabilities of traditional technologies. Drs. Abdel-Fattah M. Seyam, Kavita Mathur and S.M. Fijul Kabir (FPS; graduated spring 2021) have been working on exploring the potential of 3D printing technology in the fiber-reinforced composite area in terms of integration of materials, manufacturing processes and design with various matrix systems and reinforcements. The team is not only investigating the infinite variability and optimum utility in terms of mechanical and physical performance, but also exploring its economical, sustainable and accessible approach of material extrusion based 3DP for high-performance applications such as aerospace, automobile, construction, defense and electronics, in comparison with the traditional technologies. (October 2021)

Examination of the Effect of Clothing Color on Perceived Attractiveness

A diagram of facial dimensions against four different colored shirts

Renzo Shamey

Color is a ubiquitous stimulus that is often considered in terms of its aesthetic qualities. Beyond the aesthetic, perception of color influences the psychological functioning of humans, including feelings, cognition, and behavior. The effect of garment colors on the perceived attractiveness of the user is a noteworthy aspect of the human interactions that are currently being investigated by Dr. Renzo Shamey and his team. Interpersonal attraction is one aspect that can be affected by the selected colors. Through an empirical investigation this research seeks to shed some light on the effect of garment colors on the perceived attractiveness of the users and to offer potential theoretical explanations in relation to the role of unique hues, ethnicity, and gender of the observers. (October 2021)

Efficient Removal of Textile Dyes from Wastewater

A diagram showing components that make up a dye polymer complex molecule

Januka Budhathoki-Uprety

Dyes enhance aesthetics and add commercial values to textile products. However, about one million tons of textile dyes are annually lost to the effluents during dyeing and finishing operations. Most of these dyes escape wastewater treatment process, reach to the environment, and persist for longer period. Presence of dyes in water sources contaminate essential drinking water sources, impair aquatic ecosystem, enter, and climb up food chain. The impact in aquatic ecosystem includes decrease in light penetration through water which directly affects the photosynthesis of aquatic plants, altering CO2 fixation, and causing oxygen deficiency. Besides, many of those dyes such as azo dyes have been found to cause toxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity among other adverse health effects. Budhathoki-Uprety is developing polymers that can efficiently remove textile dyes from aqueous system. These polymers will have potential for recycling to minimize waste and create a sustainable solution to this lasting environmental problem. (July 2021)

Cleaner Production of Woven Textiles via a Size-free Approach

a graphic cancelling out warp yarn sizing

Rong Yin

For weaving, warp single yarns have always been temporarily sized to achieve efficient weaving. However, both warp sizing and subsequent fabric desizing add no value to the final fabrics but consume a lot of expensive chemicals, energy, and water, and generate a large amount of wastewater that must undergo an expensive treatment for its safe discharge. To achieve size-free weaving, Dr. Yin is collaborating with Dr. Andre West to develop an advanced spinning technology to substantially improve the yarn performance. Inspired by the plant roots that have several primary branches and multiple secondary branches which hold soil firmly under the ground, a yarn with such hierarchical structure should be able to have excellent fiber security and fiber-to-fiber cohesion that can withstand the high abrasion during weaving. This innovative idea, once successful, will contribute to shortening the conventional production process of transforming staple fibers into woven fabrics, reducing the cost of production, and improving environmental protection. (July 2021)

Free Markets and Individual Freedoms for Both Workers and Consumers

Factory in Bangladesh

Marguerite Moore, Robert Handfield, Tim Kraft

Globalization and unrelenting downward pressure on market prices for apparel have shaped supply chains that are perilous for factory workers in low income countries such as Bangladesh, India and Cambodia. Growing demand for accountability is evident among younger generations of consumers as well as investors. In response western apparel and footwear brands implement codes of conduct in supply chains which can be voluntary or enforced by auditing agencies. The International Labor Organization (ILO) provides broadly accepted standards for labor practices, however interpretation and measurement of ILO rules vary widely among contexts (companies, industries, countries). Prof. Marguerite Moore is collaborating with Prof. Robert Handfield and Tim Kraft in the Poole College of Management to promote free markets and individual freedoms for both workers and consumers. The project is funded ($2.25 million USD) by the Templeton World Charity Foundation for three years (2021-23) and involves collaboration with internal and external academics, apparel and footwear companies at various levels of the supply chain, global labor bodies, and multi-stakeholder initiatives to protect factory workers. (April 2021)

Ring Spun Yarns with Supreme Properties And Functionalities

Ring Spun Yarn

Rong Yin

Ring spinning is a major yarn manufacturing method due to its high yarn quality and flexibility in materials and yarn counts. With the increasing demand of novel features or further improving qualities, many modifications have been developed. Recently, high-performance modified ring spun yarn developed by Prof. Rong Yin and his team has supreme properties and functionalities. The modified yarn is achieved physically in a single step on a ring-spinning machine by changing the yarn structure. Prof. Yin’s team modified the fiber tension and twist distributions in the spinning triangle to better control the fibers. The modified yarn has high strength, low hairiness, and high abrasion resistance. This method is applicable to many fiber types including cotton, polyester, viscose, etc. Fabrics made of these yarns are strong and durable. (April 2021)

Pneumatic-driven Fiber-shaped Robot as Active Scaffolds for Cell Culture

Fiber Shaped Robot

Xiaomeng Fang and Jessica Gluck

The active scaffold refers to the cell-supporting substrate capable of generating periods of mechanical stimulations throughout cell culture, which has been shown to promote cellular growth, differentiation, survival and proliferation, as well as regulate gene expression and ultimately influence cellular function. Professors Xiaomeng Fang and Jessica Gluck are collaborating to develop a 3D pneumatic fiber-shaped scaffold that is able to generate mechanical stimulus with controlled force/strain/frequency upon pressure actuation, thus mimicking the microenvironment in vivo and providing fibrous support to cells. The developed devices have great potential in enhancing the current tissue generation technology that has recently emerged as an effective therapy to repair or regenerate damaged or malfunctioned tissues. (January 2021)

Aesthetic Impact of Assistive Devices

Assistive Device

Kate Nartker, Anne Porterfield, Katherine Annett-Hitchcock

The use of an assistive device may indicate that one’s health status has changed, potentially eliciting feelings of isolation and stigmatization. Undefined stylistic codes and the lack of aesthetics have contributed to stigmatizing designs in the field of Assistive Technology, resulting in negative outcomes such as abandonment or rejection of the device. While research into the development of assistive devices has focused largely on functionality, this study by Professors Kate Nartker, Anne Porterfield, and Katherine Annett-Hitchcock aims to assess how aesthetics can be engaged to improve utilization of a device and promote positive user outcomes.(January 2021)

WholeGarment® Knitting Providing Protection against Mosquitos

A test of bite protection against mosquitoes being conducted

Andre West, Emiel DenHartog, Michael Roe, Charles Apperson, and Kun Luan

WholeGarment® Knitting of Military Clothing with Bite Protection against Mosquitoes. The objective of this research for the U. S. Army’s Deployed War Fighters Protection Division (DWFP) is to develop an Army Combat Uniform (ACU) using seamless WholeGarment® technology that is bite-resistant from vector insects and create a predictive model to select structural design parameters for the production of comfortable, durable, and bite-resistant knit fabrics. Professors Andre West (Textiles), Emiel DenHartog (Textiles) Michael Roe (Entomology), Charles Apperson (Entomology) and Dr. Kun Luan (Textiles) are working together to develop these new garments to offer an economical, sustainable and accessible approach to mechanically prevent proboscis penetration without the use of harmful chemical pesticides thus reducing disease exposure for deployed military. The image right shows a black knitted fabric being tested with “Arm in Cage” and 50 female mosquitoes. (October 2020)

Factor Identification in Smart Health-Monitoring Wearable Device

A state transition diagram of software and hardware interactions

Mengmeng Zhu

The empirical study of factor identification in smart health-monitoring wearable device is conducted by Prof. Mengmeng Zhu and her team to comprehensively identify 123 factors from various perspectives, and further determine the important features that interest customers based on statistical inference and machine learning. Many system failures occur from interactions of software and hardware (I-SH), however I-SH are often neglected in modeling system reliability due to mathematical complexity. Prof. Zhu and her team developed a new mathematical framework of modeling complex system reliability (CSR) considering I-SH, and two imperfect maintenance policies for complex system. A new diagram of categorizing I-SH states is proposed (See Figure). Based on Markov process, a new mathematical framework of modeling CSR incorporating newly proposed diagram is developed. Moreover, the steps of finding the optimal cost are theoretically illustrated for the two long-term imperfect maintenance policies. (October 2020)

Fiber-Shaped Robot with Controlled Motions

A diagram showing different controllable motions of a fiber robot and the potential applications

Xiaomeng Fang and Philip Bradford

The ongoing curiosity in development of fiber robots originates from a profound interest in finding artificial means to mimic the flexible and fibrous mammalian muscles that are superbly resilient, meanwhile can generate fast, strong, and repeated locomotion. Fiber robots composed of electroactive polymers are inherently advantageous because they combine flexibility of the textile structure with the smart feature. Dr. Fang and Dr. Bradford are collaborating to develop miniaturized fiber robots using novel electroactive polymers and aligned carbon nanotubes (ACNTs). Such developed devices are capable of generating multidirectional motions, which have great potential in microrobotics, biomedical devices, haptic devices, and responsive prosthetics. (July 2020)

Guiding Cardiac Differentiation via Decellularized ECM Electrospun Scaffolds

A graphic of cardiac differentiation being guided in a microenvironment

Jessica M. Gluck

The microenvironment of the heart is extremely important to support the specific heart functions and is different throughout the heart. The microenvironment includes both the architecture and the natural proteins and biopolymers present within the extracellular matrix (ECM). Dr. Gluck is investigating how the microenvironment influences cardiac development. Native cardiac tissue undergoes a process called “decellularization” which is the removal all cells from the tissue, leaving the natural proteins and biopolymers. This is then electrospun to recreate the heart’s microenvironment. A stem cell model is used to analyze how the microenvironment influences differentiation to specific heart cells. The figure right shows stem cells becoming heart cells (7 days post differentiation), where red=α-actinin, green=HCN4, blue=nucleus. (July 2020)

Integration of Textiles in Assisted Living Art Programs

person knitting in a comfy chair

Kate Nartker

It is estimated that there are 1.5 million older adults residing in assisted living facilities in the U.S. today. As this demographic grows, there is a pressing need to develop novel, sustainable, and cost-effective approaches to improve the lives of older adults in long-term care. While research on the benefits of art participation in older adults is growing, there is a need to look beyond creative expression and examine the specific mediums, activities and processes that most effectively impact health and well-being. This research will focus on how textiles are currently integrated in arts enrichment programs in assisted living facilities and the degree to which they contribute to the well-being of the resident seniors. (July 2020)

Sensor-Integrated Polymeric Scaffolds for Ocular Tissue Engineering

an eye diagram

Januka Budhathoki-Uprety and Jessica M. Gluck

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 2.2 billion people worldwide have a vision impairment or blindness. Frequently, vision impairment has been related to damage to the cornea within the eye. The most common restorative treatment option for corneal damage is transplantation. The ocular tissue engineering approach for corneal transplantation relies on stem cells from a donor to develop corneal tissue before transplanting it to the patient. Optimal biomaterial scaffolds for tissue development as well as monitoring the tissue function are essential for successful tissue engineering. Dr. Januka Budhathoki-Uprety and Dr. Jessica M. Gluck are collaborating on developing sensor-integrated polymer scaffolds for ocular tissue engineering and in situ monitoring of tissue function. The inclusion of the biosensor in scaffolds will enable real-time monitoring of tissue health during culture and optimization strategies for corneal transplantation, as well as developing stem cell-derived epithelium to negate the need for donor tissue in the future. (April 2020)

Bio-Inspired Structural Color for Textiles

a butterfly positioned above a nano-structure

Kavita Mathur, Nathalie Lavoine, Traci Lamar

In nature, generation of structural colors is realized by living organisms (e.g. butterflies). These natural colors result from the selective reflectance of incident light originating from micro- and nano-structure variation. In this study, we combine textile material, a microstructure, with wood-extracted cellulose nanocrystals, as nanostructure, to generate naturally colored fabrics. This interdisciplinary study involves a collaborative team of experts in textile structure and design, coloration technologies and cellulose nanomaterials, from Wilson College of Textiles (Drs. Traci Lamar and Kavita Mathur) and the College of Natural Resources (Dr. Nathalie Lavoine), respectively. This innovative project aims at reducing the use of synthetic dyes and pigments in textile color applications, but also proposes a new sustainable pathway to textile coloration using renewable and biodegradable materials. (April 2020)

Digital Print Colorant and Color Management

a digital print colorant

Lisa Chapman

Optimization of digital print colorant and color management systems reduces cost, improves performance and reduces or eliminate chemicals in our waterways. Working collaboratively with fellow faculty members such as Drs. Freeman, Moore, Thoney and Shamey, and industry members such as Everlight, HP, Lubrizol Corporation, and Walmart, Dr. Chapman has secured competitive grants to fund research in digital printing. High-speed digital printers, capable of printing 70 m/min, are now competitive with rotary screen printing in terms of speed and cost and have a competitive advantage when printing shorter runs or multiple colorways. This research takes a whole system approach, working to engineer fiber, yarn, substrate, pre-treatment, colorant, and printing systems to develop a highly competitive manufacturing system that delivers a superior product at a value to the customer, ultimately contributing to economic development via the creation of innovative products and services for the global textile complex. (January 2020)

Clothing Biophysics – Physical Interaction between Human, Clothing and the Environment

thermal research being performed

Emiel DenHartog

In most of his career, Prof. Emiel DenHartog he has studied thermal physiology and protection such as Chemical-Biological Protection, but also ballistics, heat and flame and camouflage. Recently his work has focused more on the local interaction of fabrics and materials with the skin and the effects of the local microclimate on skin health. Main focus of research is on using and developing test and evaluation methods for functional textiles to demonstrate and quantify protection, performance, health and comfort of clothing. With this he is pursuing, and enjoying, active collaborations with a wide range of scientists providing measurement and evaluation support on anything related to improvements on human health, performance and comfort. (January 2020)

Understanding Global Apparel Markets and Consumers

a cover for a book tilted process innovation in the global fashion industry

Ellie Jin

The apparel and footwear industry represent the world’s 2nd largest consumer goods sector after packaged food. The global apparel industry is Prof. Ellie Jin’s passion. Her primary research focus is on understanding global apparel markets and consumers, especially in emerging markets. Her studied emerging markets include China (funded from US Department of Education, 2004-2007), India (USDA, 2006-2009), Vietnam (US Department of Education, 2010), Saudi Arabia (King Saud University, 2015-2016), and Malaysia and Indonesia (National Research Foundation of Korea, 2019-2022). Prof. Jin’s another research area is helping SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)’ branding and global activities. With the expert and interests, Prof. Jin seeks to collaborate with textile and apparel companies in branding their goods and technologies and in globalizing their businesses. (October 2019)

Protecting Firefighters from Cancer

a group of firefighters standing together

Bryan Ormond

Over 60% of line-of-duty-deaths for firefighters have been attributed to cancer. The rates of cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths in the fire service have been elevated due to chronic exposures to increasingly toxic and carcinogenic fireground contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phenols, phthalates, and fluorinated compounds. To mitigate these exposures, Professor Bryan Ormond’s research group in TPACC’s Chemical Protection and Analytical Laboratory works both in the lab and in the field with local and national fire departments to measure the efficacy of new particulate-blocking firefighter hoods that provide dermal protection from smoke and soot, assess the potential contact and off-gassing hazards associated with contaminated gear, and develop analytical approaches to determine the most efficient cleaning methods for turnout ensembles. (October 2019)

High-Performance Nanofiber-Based Batteries and Supercapacitors

a lithium ion battery

Xiangwu Zhang

Among the various existing energy storage technologies, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors have been considered as two important solutions to the increasing needs for high-performance electrochemical power sources. Novel nanofiber materials with functional properties can dramatically alter surface reaction rates and charge transport throughout the batteries and supercapacitors, causing significant improvement in energy storage efficiency. Prof. Xiangwu Zhang and his team have developed of several new functional nanofibers and integrated them into rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors to achieve high system performance. Results show that these long-life, high-performance batteries and supercapacitors weigh less, take less space, and deliver more energy. Currently, they are working on all-solid-state and flexible energy-storage devices. (October 2019)

Optical Nanosensor Development for the Detection and Monitoring of Diseases

a diagram illustrating a point of care optical sensor's monitoring of a human body

Januka Budhathoki-Uprety

Chronic illness such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer require frequent health monitoring. Non-invasive detection methods for monitoring of diseases would facilitate disease management and help mitigate socio-economic burden. Towards this, the goal of the study is to develop nanosensors to measure subtle disease biomarkers found in the body fluids such as urine, sweat, tears, and saliva among others. Dr. Budhathoki-Uprety’s team is currently developing carbon nanotube-based optical biosensors, functionalized with custom-designed polymers and small molecules, to quantitatively measure disease biomarkers present in body fluids. (July 2019)

Investigation of Skin-textile Interaction to Prevent Incidence of Friction Blisters

a friction blister on the heel of a human foot

Kavita Mathur

Friction blisters on the feet are the most common injuries among athletes and soldiers. They are formed on the uppermost layer of the epidermis, where thick skin connected to underlying layers receive excessive and repetitive increase in shear forces and friction coefficient arising from the tribological interaction of the skin with external materials during walking, running, exercising or sport activities. Since socks being the primary material in contact with the skin, this research focuses on the skin-fabric interaction by investigating the factors from fiber, yarn and fabric structures in combination with the effect of mechanical parameters (sliding distance between the skin and the fabrics, pressure, frequency and time), heat and moisture. The results of this project will be the foundation for future research and will lead to design tailored materials and textile structures to prevent any friction-induced incidence caused by skin-textile interaction. (July 2019)

Inkjet Printing on Textiles

a cloth with a label applied by an inkjet printer

Jesse Jur

Inkjet printing electronic materials on textile platforms is being researched to impart high electrical functionalities while maintaining inherent properties of textiles. Ink-jet printing has been demonstrated as a means of rapid production of versatile patterns, minimizing materials waste and eliminating incorporation of electronic materials in fiber and yarn production. In order to overcome challenges in heavy-metal nanoparticle inks, particle-free reactive silver inks based on silver carboxylates and ammonia ligands are processed in inkjet system to fabricate e-textiles on knit, woven and nonwoven structures. Using these strategies, the NEXT research team, led by Dr. Jesse Jur has achieved a low sheet resistance of 0.09 Ω/sq was achieved by controlling the number of print passes, annealing process and textile structures. Their studies highlight the use of inkjet process of various electronic inks to fabricate textile-based electrodes, strain sensors, capacitors, pressure sensors and organic thin film transistors (OTFT) in wearable electronics system. (April 2019)

2D Image Body Measuring System

a woman on a stationary bike

Cynthia Istook, Andre West

The 2D image body measuring system developed by professor Cynthia Istook, Andre West, and their PrimeFit research team is able to measure human body base on photos captured by smart phones. Users could put on a set of measuring garments and use their smart phones to take a front and a side view photo of them wearing the garments to get their body measurements. This measuring system offers a simple and affordable method for people to measure their bodies for daily use and could potentially solve the problem of online shopping returning caused by garment fit problem. (April 2019)

Protective Workwear for Agricultural Workers

two students standing in a hallway showcasing protective workwear

Katherine Annett-Hitchcock

Migrant farm workers are at increased risk of severe health issues due to lack of awareness about the effect of pesticides. Few policies exist to protect these workers. Professor Katherine Annett-Hitchcock and her students focus their efforts on creating garments that assist in protection from the pesticide Flumetralin, commonly used by tobacco farmers. A textile surface finish was applied to prevent the pesticide from penetrating the fabric and thereby preventing dermal absorption of the toxin. The second phase of the project was the design and building of a shirt and pants combination using functional and user-centered design elements, constructed from fabric with the applied surface finish to provide the intended user maximum coverage, movement, and breathability for daily work in the fields. The team, including students from Social Innovation Fellows program, is preparing to test the feasibility of hemp as a garment substrate, and the issues raised through wear-testing with a migrant worker population in the field. (October 2018)

Surface Energy Control for Alcohol Repellency and Electret Charge Protection

an additive distribution in fiber cross-sections graphic

Eunkyoung Shim

In the field of electret air filter materials, media are embedded with charges in order to improve filter capture efficiency. Unfortunately, these charged filters are susceptible to charge loss when exposed to oils and alcohols. Professor Eunkyoung Shim and her students aim to create highly repellent nonwoven media economically and prevent electrostatic charge loss. The team has produced fluorochemical melt additive containing meltblown nonwovens, investigated additive migration process and additive distributions, and related them to alcohol repellency and charge retention of electret filter media. It was found that the associated increase in filtration efficiency due to electret charging can protected through the use of alcohol repellent surfaces, and this is directly related to surface fluorine content of the nonwoven media. (October 2018)

Solution Spinning of 2D Materials to Novel Fibrous Structures for Wide Applications

novel fibrous structures

Wei Gao

Novel fibers directly spun from two-dimensional materials instead of polymers can lead to a technological revolution to the state-of-the-art fiber industry. Recently two-dimensional (2D) materials such as graphene, MoS2, and MXene have demonstrated extraordinary molecular-level properties for energy storage, sensing, separation, catalysis etc. However, their large-scale manufacturing and processing for real-world applications are still in its infancy. Professor Wei Gao’s group works on the fiber-formation technologies with this new group of 2D crystals, providing fundamental understanding of their fiber formation mechanisms. The right image shows a knitted fabric made of graphene fibers that can work as a battery to store and deliver electrical energy. (July 2018)

Enhancing the Performance and Usability of Woven Conductive Textiles

a graphic of Woven Conductive Textiles

Janie Woodbridge

Few electronic textiles have penetrated the commercial market. Extensive research has gone into the development of electronic textiles but due to long term issues with durability and performance, they have had little commercial success. To overcome this challenge, Professor Janie Woodbridge is studying existing electronic textiles and working to develop a multi-layered woven conductive fabric with an integrated support system. This will provide extra durability, more comfort for the wearer, and better protection of the sensitive, often fragile, conductive fibers. Increasing performance capabilities will extend the usability of electronic textiles and make them more commercially desirable. (July 2018)

Biocatalytic Textiles for CO2 Capture

a graphic illustrating Biocatalytic Textiles for CO2 Capture

Sonja Salmon

Further development of CO2 Capture technology is crucial in the portfolio of approaches needed to mitigate increases in atmospheric CO2 levels that contribute to climate change. Novel, reactive filtration materials are being developed for use in CO2 gas separation applications by combining the high surface area attributes of micron and submicron fibers with fast CO2 absorption enhancement catalyzed by carbonic anhydrase enzyme. Dr. Salmon and her collaborators have explored methodologies for entrapping enzymes within the polymeric matrix of fibers using different polymer chemistries and fiber-formation approaches to develop a new class of biocatalytic textiles for use in CO2 scrubbing and other advanced textile applications. (April 2018)

Wearable Medical Device for Thermotherapy

a graphic illustrating clothing-like applicators for thermotherapy

Minyoung Suh

Dr. Suh and her research team aim to develop clothing-like applicators for thermotherapy. Textile patch antennas are made of a conductive patch, a ground plane, and a dielectric insulator in between. Focusing on an accurate characterization of the dielectric layers, a theoretical model is established with Ansys High Frequency Structure Simulator (HFSS), and a series of prototype antennas is fabricated. Based on validation of antenna design and production in a planar state, 3D features are incorporated into the system design and the antenna is redesigned for form-fitting devices. This research contributes to a more uniform heat distribution in thermotherapy as well as an enhancement of device wearability. (April 2018)

Centrifugal Spinning – An Alternative Nanofiber Approach

a Centrifugal Spinning graphic

Xiangwu Zhang

Nanofibers are an important class of material that is useful in a variety of applications, including filtration, tissue engineering, protective clothing, composites, battery separators, energy storage, etc. So far, electrospinning is the most studied method for producing nanofibers. However, the wide-spread commercial use of electrospinning is limited due to its low production rate, poor safety, and high cost. Most other nanofiber production methods, such as phase separation, template synthesis, and self-assembly, are complex and can only be used to make nanofibers from limited types of materials. Prof. Xiangwu Zhang and his team use a simple, yet versatile technique to produce nanofibers of various materials including polymers, carbons, ceramics, metals, and composites. Centrifugal spinning eliminates the limitations encountered by current nanofiber production methods and can produce nanofibers at high speed and low cost. The team has developed various centrifugally-spun nanofibers for applications such as energy storage, chemical and biological protection, biomedical materials, and laser ultrasound. (April 2018)

Big Data Analysis for the textile and apparel industry

word art with machine learning at the forefront

Lori Rothenberg

The use of advanced analytics in a big data society is essential to the creation of actionable information for the textile and apparel industry. Dr. Rothenberg and her team of graduate students have applied machine learning to analyze data from around the world in order to better understand consumers, workers and companies. With a focus on economic competitiveness, they have studied topics including corporate social responsibility, reshoring and entrepreneurship. Through the use of software such as SAS Text Miner, IBM Watson Analytics for Social Media, and JMP Pro, they were able to analyze data from newspapers and social media posts, as well as large secondary datasets. (January 2018)

Understanding Potential Toxic Effects of Synthetic Dyes

the nc state university logo inside a circle of colorful fabrics in front of a volume of books on the subject

Nelson Vinueza, Denis Fourches, Ronald Baynes

Synthetic dyes are central to coloring synthetic fabrics in various textile and manufacturing products. However, certain dyes have shown to induce detrimental toxic effects to exposed individuals, such as allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). Dyes such as Disperse Orange 3 or Red 11 have proven to induce ACD resulting into severe skin rash, itching, and local swelling. Little is known about the toxicity potential of other analogs of these known toxicants, even though those analogs are used in manufactured products. Professors Nelson Vinueza (Textiles), Denis Fourches (Chemistry) and Ronald Baynes (Veterinary Medicine) are working together in developing cheminformatics tools to virtually screen more than 3000 diverse dyes from the Max Weaver dye library to identify possible disperse analogs that cause dermatitis. The modeling results will determine the dye analogs that will be used to perform in vivo pig skin studies for a better understanding of the potential toxicity of these disperse dyes. (January 2018)

Heavy Metal Removal by Nanofibers

a diagram of north carolina showing areas of heavy metal contamination

Ericka Ford

Manganese oxide coated, nonwoven nanofibers are studied to remove manganese and other heavy metals from contaminated North Carolina well waters (as documented by the Environmental Protection Agency). This research is sponsored by NC Sea Grant and Water Resource and Research Institute. Professors Ericka Ford (Textiles), Terrence Gardner (Agriculture and Life Sciences), and Yaewon Park (graduate research fellow in Textiles) add manganese oxidizing fungi to nanofibers to support the bioremediation of contaminated groundwater. (October 2017)

U.S. Home Textiles Market Analysis

a cushioned bench with stacked pillows and flowers sitting on top in front of a pretty curtain

Yingjiao Xu

Home textiles is one of the most attractive, fashion sensitive, and lucrative segments in the textiles industry. U.S., along with China and Europe, is dominating the global home textiles market as consumers. The U.S. Home Textiles Market is undergoing significant changes due to evolving consumer needs, new retailing channels, as well as innovations in materials and production. Professor Yingjiao Xu and her team are conducting a market analysis of the U.S. Home Textiles Market with a focus on furnishing fabrics and bed linens. The research will provide an insight to the current U.S. home textiles market in terms of industry trend, new retailing formats, and consumer behaviors toward home textiles products. (October 2017)

Super-light Carbon Nanotube Forms

a carbon nanotube foam being held

Philip Bradford

Carbon Nanotube Foams are being produced and studied in Prof. Philip Bradford’s Lab. They are made through layering aligned carbon nanotube sheets. These unique materials are lower density than traditional polymer based foams and high loft nonwoven fabrics. They have the added benefit of high temperature stability (~ 500 oC in air), electrical conductivity and specific surface area making them interesting for filtration, electrodes for electrochemical devices, pressure sensors and supports for catalytic reactions. This work is funded by Bradford’s Young Investigator Program award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. (July 2017)

Non-Stop Tying-In Process

a tying-in process

Abdel-Fattah M. Seyam and William Oxenham

The first ever non-stop tying-in process trials were conducted by Professors Abdel-Fattah M. Seyam and William Oxenham based on their newly developed innovative procedures and prototype equipment that can dramatically reduce or eliminate weaving stop while conducting tying-in. A recent study of currently practiced tying-in process showed that the loss of production could range from 4% to 6% depending on the warp specifications, weaving machine type, and operators’ skill. These new trials revealed that not only the weaving process continued while tying-in but also eliminated several steps and saved considerable amount of wasted warp materials. Almost all weavers will benefit from the non-stop tying-in process. Examples of types of products that require tying-in include shirting, sheeting, denim, towel, air bag, and Jacquard fabrics. (July 2017)

Sustainable Chemical Treatment of Cotton

Ahmed El-Shafei standing in front of chemical treatment machinery

Ahmed El-Shafei

A new cotton treatment method has been developed by Prof. Ahmed El-Shafei and his team that changes the fundamental chemistry of cellulose chains and significantly enhances the number of dye sites in the chains. The sustainable chemistry used is robust, does not hydrolyze, does not require alkali, does not generate hazard intermediates and the remainder chemical is 100 percent recoverable. This chemical treatment eliminates the need for conventional chemicals such as salt and alkali, and the dyed fabric does not require rinsing, washing or drying, and, hence, results in zero effluent and produces more than 95% savings in both energy and water. (April 2017)

Advanced Antimicrobial Knit Base Layers

knitted material

Lisa Parrillo Chapman, Emiel DenHartog, Don Thompson

Technology developments in circular body-size and flat-bed knitting machines enable knit, tuck, and miss stitches to be formed across the width of the substrate so that various knit structures can be engineered within the product shape. The emergence of new fibers with broad-spectrum antimicrobial capabilities for the first time provides the opportunity to both prevent the development of microbial infections and to provide treatment for infections that have emerged. Prof. Lisa Parrillo Chapman and her team have created a new class of pharmacologically-active base layers to provide optimal comfort and performance, while reducing odor and microbial infections. (January 2017)

Stretchable Electronics for Sensing and Energy Storage

a graphic of a winding strand of wearable sensors with energy-storage capabilities

Wei Gao and Eunkyoung Shim

Textile-based wearable sensors and supercapacitors can offer sensing and energy-storage capabilities for specific applications, such as health monitoring with medical gowns, implants, and high-tech sportswear. Prof. Wei Gao (Polymer and Color Chemistry) and Prof. Eunkyoung Shim (Textile Technology) worked together to develop a self-powered prototype with two functional components on a stretchable fabric: 1) strain sensors based on electrical conductivity of surface coatings with graphene, to sense against local deformations; 2) energy-storage units based on graphene coatings and laser-patterning processes that can sustain certain levels of stretching/twisting. (January 2017)

Wearable and Washable Wireless Charging

wearable clothing with wireless charging alongside frequency graphics

Warren Jasper

The washable wireless charging (WWWC) system developed by Prof. Warren Jasper and his team is able to charge and power electronic devices remotely while you are sitting on a chair in your office or at home without using a traditional battery charger. Over 35% energy efficiency has been achieved by the WWWC system, which is constructed by embedding conductive yarns into a knitted whole garment structure. Using this WWWC system, it is possible to transfer 500 mW of power to a comfortable and washable knitted garment. (October 2016)