Scientists at the Hohenstein Institute in BÃ¶nnigheim, in partnership with the ITCF Denkendorf, have developed the world's first textiles which effectively screen out both electromagnetic (EM) and infrared (IR) radiation. Until now, textile materials have ever only offered a choice of protection, either from the so-called electrosmog caused by electrical devices, or from thermal radiation, for example from sources of fire or intensive solar radiation.
The artificial fibres are given their screening effect either by dosing (integrating) or by coating them with indium tin oxide (ITO), a transparent oxide compound which is also used in the touchscreens of smart phones. In tests, the textile treatment proved to be resistant to washing, abrasion and weathering. It was also possible to prove that the treatment was not biologically harmful - and nor were the garments made uncomfortable to wear.
Project leader Dr. Edith ClaÃŸen envisages the innovative fabric being used primarily for occupational clothing: "These novel materials are not only extremely effective at screening radiation but they also conduct electricity so they are anti-static. This makes them ideal for use in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for firemen, workers in foundries and welding workshops, in the semiconductor industry or for maintenance staff working on telecommunications systems."
However, Dr. ClaÃŸen can also see many potential applications in domestic and technical textile products: "For example, you could imagine making roller blinds which not only screen out solar radiation in summer to keep the room cool, but at the same time also offer protection from the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts in the vicinity."
These multifunctional materials may well also be of interest to the military: if used for uniforms, they make the wearer "invisible" to infrared cameras and at the same time they give protection from electromagnetic radiation.