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  • [♪ INTRO]

  • Nature's had a few billion  years to do what it does best.

  • So it only makes sense that we  humans would want to take advantage

  • of some of its greatest hits.

  • Taking inspiration from or mimicking structures  found in nature is called biomimicry.

  • And we do it a lotfor making things like  waterproof glues or wind turbine blades.

  • But there's another area that  draws inspiration from nature

  • that doesn't get as much credit: fashion.

  • Take dyeing fabrics, for example.

  • Thanks to the chemicals found  in many commercial dyes,

  • making a shirt a radiant shade of red can be toxic

  • to both the people dyeing the  fabric and to the environment.

  • But some of the most vibrant colors in  nature don't come from pigments at all.

  • They come from the structure of the material.

  • For instance, the morpho butterfly  has these vibrantly colored wings.

  • The iridescent blue color comes from  microscopic, shingle-like scales that

  • scatter certain wavelengths of lightreflecting blue back to our eyes.

  • And two fabric manufacturers  have mimicked that structure

  • to create some stunning textiles.

  • Japanese fiber manufacturer  Kuraray created Diphorl:

  • a fabric made by spinning two  types of polyester together,

  • and then heat treating them  to make twists in the yarn.

  • Those twists sit in different  horizontal and vertical directions,

  • absorbing and reflecting light in  a similar way to the morpho wing.

  • Instant color, no dye required.

  • And another Japanese company, Teijin,

  • has taken the morpho wing idea one step  further with a fabric called Morphotex.

  • This fabric is constructed from 61  super thin layers of polyester or nylon.

  • And each layer is only around 70 nanometers thick.

  • By controlling the thickness of each layer,

  • researchers can change the  wavelength of light that's reflected:

  • either red, green, blue or violet.

  • But sometimes you want function  from your fashion, not just form.

  • Like, wouldn't it be great to be able to  wear a thin jacket in the depths of winter,

  • instead of being swallowed up inpuffer jacket the size of a tent?

  • Well, polar bears might have the solutionThey are experts in staying warm, after all.

  • And that's thanks to a double-layered coat.

  • Close to the skin is a layer of short, dense hairs

  • and outside of that isset of longer guard hairs.

  • Those long hairs are hollow, which  makes them excellent at absorbing heat.

  • So instead of heat from the polar bear's  body seeping out into the cold Arctic air,

  • it's absorbed by the hairs, keeping the bear warm.

  • In fact, the heat is trapped  so effectively that polar bears

  • are practically invisible on infrared cameras.

  • In 2018, Chinese scientists developed  a technique for making fibers

  • with a similar structure  to polar bear guard hairs.

  • The fibers are packed with tiny pores,

  • making them basically hollow and able to  trap heat much like the guard hairs do.

  • But then, these scientists upped the ante.

  • They showed they could improve the  fibers by adding carbon nanotubes,

  • along with a power source.

  • These super thin, flexible strands can  be woven into the polar-bear-like fibers.

  • And a battery could heat the nanotubes quickly  and transfer heat easily to the fibers,

  • basically turning your sweater  into a portable, wearable heater.

  • Aside from keeping you toasty  warm, researchers think clothes

  • made from these fibers could almost  act like an invisibility cloak,

  • letting people evade infrared  cameras like polar bears do.

  • And finally, we've all got that favorite shirt.

  • You know, the one that's full  of holes you've had forever

  • and you just can't bear to throw it away.

  • It would be pretty cool if  that shirt could repair itself

  • so you wouldn't have to buy another  one for years, or maybe even decades.

  • Well it turns out, researchers are working on

  • a coating you can put on  fabric that would do just that.

  • First described in a 2016 paper, the  coating takes its inspiration from squid.

  • You see, squid have sets of toughserrated suckers called squid ring teeth

  • that they use for latching onto things.

  • Those teeth contain proteins that haveunique nanostructure of repeating units:

  • some soft and wiggly, and some rigid.

  • Kind of like beads on a stringbut at a molecular scale.

  • And it's this structurealong  with some added heat and pressure

  • that allows the coating to heal itself.

  • In squid, the protein structure gives the teeth

  • extreme strength and flexibility  for grasping onto prey.

  • When two proteins draw close to each other,

  • the rigid parts attract each  other and stick together.

  • The wiggly parts in between allow  them to line up in a neat array.

  • If coated on a piece of  fabric, the researchers say,

  • the proteins can join frayed parts back together.

  • And incidentally, while many self-healing  coatings don't work when wet,

  • this one has to be wet to work.

  • Not only did the researchers show that  fabrics including cotton, linen, and wool

  • could heal themselves in this way  — they could be self-cleaning, too.

  • They found that adding enzymes  to the squid-based coating

  • meant it could break down chemicals  that were applied to the fabric.

  • That would be great not only  for vintage t-shirt lovers,

  • but for workers whose uniforms need to  withstand abrasions or chemical spills.

  • But right now the best place to get  squid ring proteins is from squid.

  • Scientists have been able to get genetically  modified bacteria to make the proteins,

  • but they just can't pump them out  in the same amounts as a squid does.

  • Which is kind of crucial if you're talking about

  • manufacturing clothing on a larger scale.

  • So, fashion and functionnature just has it all.

  • So you can hardly blame us for wanting  to borrow some of its best moves.

  • Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow.

  • If you enjoyed it, you'll probably also  enjoy our podcast, SciShow Tangents.

  • In October, we did a Month of Monsterswhere we talked about real science inspired

  • by supernatural creatures like  ghosts and Frankenstein's monster,

  • and we've got more holiday-themed  surprises coming in December,

  • so keep an eye out for that!

  • [♪ OUTRO]

[♪ INTRO]

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B1 US squid fabric polar heat coating polar bear

Squid Proteins, but Make Them Fashion

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/13
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