Smart fibrous structures (SFS) are defined as materials which can interact with the environment/user. Fibrous structures (FS) with conductive nanoparticles (NPs) can convert fabrics into sensor-based materials by for example, conversion of exerted mechanical forces into electrical signals. Metal oxides (MO) at nanoscale, biocompatible polymers and natural nanofibres can be used as smart structures for biomedical applications. FS functionalized with MO NPs can also act as self-cleaning surfaces which are very effective in decomposing organic compounds, pollutants and microorganisms.
The greatest challenge of this project is to develop SFS in a sustainable way, capable of accomplishing a wide spectrum of combined functions such as, for instance: monitoring/sensing and chemical/biological protection. Natural fibres (NF) such as: flax or hemp, can be collected directly from nature and are considered environmentally friendly materials. Due to their low cost, lightweight, abundance and biodegradability, they are undoubtedly promising materials for replacing the synthetic ones.
The functionalization of NF with metal oxide nanoparticles and biopolymers, will allow the development of new FS with applications in several areas. In the military sector those can be used for: monitoring vital biological signs of soldiers, chemical/biological protection and self-decontaminating systems. They can also be used in sports, as well as in therapeutic applications (wound healing). The novelty of this project emerges from the huge potential and versatility of NPs and the in-situ functionalization of these NPs onto NF. According to literature, this is a very promising area that is yet to be thoroughly explored.