MIT Builds First-Ever Breathable Workout Suit
Seattle, – (May 19, 2017) Researcher at MIT unveiled the first-ever prototype of a breathable workout suit with ventilation flaps that respond to the moisture content of the body and open and close accordingly. Made of live microbial cells, the flaps are sensitive to the sweat generated by the athlete. The microbial cells are responsive to the heat signature of the person and shrink or expand as necessary to maintain the body at a uniform temperature. This leads to the opening and closing of the flaps.
The point of using moisture-sensitive cells in the suit is that no other external equipment is required to sense and control humidity. In addition, the microbial cells do not present any harm to humans even after accidental consumption. Thirdly, large quantities of microbial cells can be generated easily, with further customization for incorporation of other facilities if necessary.
The idea of micro-responsive fabrics was derived from the microbial cells and proteins observed in nature, which change dimensions on exposure to humidity. This principle was then implemented by Wen Wang, co-leader of the research team of 15 scientists from across multiple fields of study, including chemical, biotechnical, mechanical, engineering, fashion design, and architecture.
The suite incorporates lines of microbial cells on latex fabric, set in a pattern across the user’s back. A heat and sweat map of the body was used to identify the areas of maximum temperature and humidity during the workout. The ventilation flaps were designed in various sizes and configurations to open more or less, depending on the amount of sweat produced.
The principle of responsive fabric integration was further extended to the inner lining of a running shoe, at the bottom of the foot. The design is theorized to create ventilation for the runner’s feet, thereby keeping them dry and wart-free. The design is still in the prototype stage, though comprehensive research is being undertaken on the same.
The self-ventilating workout suit is an excellent example of the use of biotechnology in healthcare and fitness. Wang and team now intend to collaborate with professional athletic goods manufacturers to commercialize these designs.
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