Functional fibres make clever clothes

A project launched recently aims to monitor key health indicators of emergency personnel through wearable sensors integrated into their clothing.



The European Integrated Project ProeTEX (Protection e-Textiles: MicroNanoStructured fibre systems for Emergency-Disaster Wear) plans to develop an integrated set of functional garments for emergency disaster personnel, capable of monitoring physiological and environmental parameters, improving their safety, coordination and efficiency.



The project, launched in Luzern Switzerland, with funding of €12 million, involves 23 European partners who will be collaborating over the next four years.



The wearable systems developed by ProeTEX will monitor the health of the user through vital signs, biochemical parameters, activity and posture, and generate and store their own power. The outer layer will measure potential environmental hazards, such as adverse temperatures, and levels of carbon monoxide and other toxic gases. They also offer improved visibility, and continuously communicate data to the rescue operation control centre.



Project coordinator Professor Annalisa Bonfiglio, from the University of Cagliari, says she hopes the project will also have other spin-off technology developments, like textile-based micro-nano technologies.



Professor Bonfiglio has recently developed flexible electronic devices on plastic thin films. She says, “We are now aiming to develop directly functionalised fibres, systems that can be assembled directly as a textile material. In this way the textile itself becomes an active component, and can be tailored not only according to the physical shape but also to the electronic function.”



These and similar technologies developed by other project partners will allow textile systems to integrate sensors, connections, transmission systems and power management for the emergency disaster personnel smart garments. They will soon address a wider range of other markets from extreme sports, through healthcare to building workers.