Everybody knows about cloth. Fabric. It’s that stuff your jeans are made of. Engineers are turning fabric into stuff Levi Strauss never dreamed of. We’ll do more than dream. Today. On Engineering Works!
Cloth. Fabric. Textiles. Whatever you call it, it’s been around a long time. As long as civilization, probably. Mostly it’s been used for clothes. It’s also carpets. Furniture upholstery. Sails for boats. Now, engineers are weaving threads into stuff you’d never imagine.
How about a knitted bag that helps a failing heart pump blood? A jacket that conducts electricity through its threads and keeps you warm. Or valves in automobile engines, braided from carbon fibers.
Using cloth in unusual ways is nothing new. Roman engineers used burlap to help stabilize their famous roads. Automobile tires use fabrics to make them strong and durable. That hasn’t always worked quite the way the engineers planned.
Nylon fabric in tires in the 1960s used to flatten out if they stood still for a while. Then the flat spot in the tire thumped until it warmed up again. Oh, well. The reinforcing fabric in today’s tires don’t bump. They also get 80,000 miles before they wear out.
New fabrics pretty much define high-tech. A German company has invented an outdoor jacket that plays MP3s. NASA is developing a spacesuit fabric that acts like a mousepad to control computers.
The fabric of this week’s show is just about worn out. We’ll see you next time.