In the Future, Your Clothes Will Clean the Air, Generate Power and Save Your Life

The cutting edge of textile tech

Hey, reader, what are you wearing?

Did rumpled jeans fit your fancy this morning? Or perhaps a nice cotton-poly blend shirt with a paisley print? Here at PopSci, we prefer this spring’s new line of nanostructured piezoelectric thermo-capable waterproof spider silk fireproof onesies, with added UV protection. Now that sounds like the uniform of the future.

Click here to check out our gallery of future textiles and fabrics.

So a suit with all those qualities doesn’t exist, at least not right now. But textile scientists are making plenty of progress on all these fronts, turning the centuries-old art of textile creation into a science all its own. Nanotechnology, organic chemistry, thermoelectrics and, yes, fashion are all in play here, as scientists and designers come up with clothing that can protect humans’ health, generate electricity and even keep things (including themselves) nice and clean.

Some textile breakthroughs involve new weaving capabilities, like super-tight stitches that block air or nanostructured knits that trap individual molecules. Others involve new fabrics entirely, and others take advantage of new manufacturing methods to give textiles characteristics — like power generation — they’ve never had before.

Here’s a look at how textiles are changing to protect us and our environments — in some cases, even without sacrificing style.