PolyU seeking markets for new body-fitting 'memory' fabrics

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2007, 12:00am

Clothes that take the shape of the wearer are set to become a reality after Polytechnic University researchers produced breakthrough 'memory' fabrics.

When such material is worn, it 'senses' the body temperature and becomes highly flexible, adjusting to the user's body shape, according to Hu Jinlian, the lead researcher.

Upon further heating, for example, by a blow-dryer, the material restores itself to its primary shape which it 'remembers' - and eases out the creases in the process.

'The shape-memory fabrics are ideal for sports wear, daily wear and intimate apparel because they can fit the body easily without causing tension,' Professor Hu said yesterday.

'I believe that the easy-care and body-care characteristics of our products should be attractive to the textile and fashion world that is increasingly asking for functionality,' she said.

The yarns and fibres are ready for production following years of research. They can be mixed with other materials, like cotton and polyester, to enhance their ability to adapt to shapes.

Professor Hu said the university was liaising with upmarket textile manufacturers on the mainland for business opportunities. Prices have yet to be fixed.

The university has been researching the manufacturing of shape-memory fibres and yarns since 2004, using HK$12 million in funds from the Innovation and Technology Commission and several corporate companies.

Before that, the university spent HK$7 million and six years developing shape-memory textile technology, which resulted in a coating solution that allowed cotton to remember shapes and temperatures.

Professor Hu said that the latest breakthrough should be more marketable.

'Compared with the coating skill, the shape-memory capacity of the fibres and yarns is even higher, and they are easier to use for production,' she said.