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New coating to make fabric self-healing inspired by squids

How often has it happened that you sat down and you heard a familiar ripping sound? Or that suddenly your toe pokes through your sock? In the future, you might be able to leave your sewing kit in the closet, because the fabric does the work for you. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have discovered a protein in squids that gives fabric self-healing properties.

In their research, the scientists focused on the razor sharp teeth on the inside of the suction cups of squids, that help them latch on to preys, which are tough and elastic under both wet and dry circumstances. The protein in these teeth is made up of negatively and positively charged polymers.

The researchers developed a coating made from polyelectrolytes, which is the protein found in the squid ring-teeth. The coating was made from a yeast and bacteria solution, in order not to sacrifice squids for fashion.

The coating works by applying it, adding warm water and then a little pressure. After about a minute, the fabric should have repaired itself. It works on fibres such as cotton, wool and silk, as well as polyester, and it does not alter the quality of the fabric. Plus, afterwards the fabric can be washed in the washing machine without any problems. The coating can be applied to already made clothing, or used on fibre to make cloth.

Additionally, the coating works as a protection, as it breaks down toxic enzymes that could otherwise be absorbed though the skin, such as herbicides. The coating is strong, increasing the durability of clothes all the while being invisible to the naked eye.

The next step is clothes that can self-repair when in the washing machine, by adding the coating like a laundry detergent and applying pressure and heat. The time of darning seems to be over soon.

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