New spin on smart materials

Materials engineers at Nanosonic of Blacksburg, Virginia, are spinning novel, electrically conductive textiles in a modified washing machine. The research is a bid to incorporate the company's Metal Rubber as an integral component and so develop e-textiles based on gold and silver to make fairytale weaver Rumpelstiltskin green with envy. "We can spin gold and silver into flexible fabrics and they are electrically conductive and nearly transparent," explains company president Rick Claus. The new nanotextiles could be used for a number of applications, perhaps as shields against disruptive radio frequency radiation. "A cell phone can be wrapped in it and the incoming and outgoing signals are killed," Claus says. The materials might also be made into thicker but lightweight conductive fabrics for electric power workers that would protect them from any hazardous electric power line radiation to which they were exposed.