Mind & Matter


Smart Wool

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Superhydrophilic Wool Fabric. Photo by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.


Wool has long been considered a kind of miracle fabric—soft, light, and warm even when it gets wet. Wool is also a renewable textile, which is something that petroleum-derived synthetics can’t touch. Given its superior qualities, it should come as no surprise that scientists have been tinkering with wool in order to study its properties—and even make enhancements. Researchers in China have developed a treatment in which an ultra-thin coating of silica may be deposited on wool fiber, thus increasing wool’s water absorbency—a modification that could make wool clothing feel less clammy when wet. According to the scientists, the coating could also help prevent shrinkage and wrinkles in wool garments.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.