Self-healing clothes? It could be a possibility thanks to a squid protein

Who needs a sewing kit when you’ve got a squid on hand? Proving once again that Mother Nature really does know best, scientists have discovered the self-healing properties of proteins found in squid ring teeth. But because we’re not going to start killing squid in the name of fashion, scientists have developed a new bacteria and yeast solution, which has been shown to repair most fabrics.

The liquid combination is very similar to the squid proteins, and using it is simple (at least, according to video demonstrations by researchers at Pennsylvania State University). Simply place a few drops of the solution on a fabric tear, apply warm water, and press the torn edges together for around 60 seconds. From there, watch the material magically seam itself back up.

There’s no name for this new substance quite yet, but there are already a number of potential applications, starting at the supply chain. For example, textile makers can coat fabric with the liquid, thereby imparting the self-healing qualities directly within the material itself. Or we could take things a step further back, using fibers produced with this self-healing protein to make cloth. That way, any finished product made with this cloth would be able to repair itself with the addition of some water and pressure.

Melik Demirel, a professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State who led the research, has already tested the new liquid on a myriad of common fabrics, including cotton, wool, and polyester. Impressively, the addition of the solution didn’t change the fabric’s quality, and even stood up to a cycle in the laundry machine.

So what’s next for Demirel’s team? He wants to see “if clothes can self-repair when we pour the liquid into a washing machine, like you would a detergent, and apply water and heat.”

Ultimately, the professor says, this new squid-based protein “could help improve protective clothing worn by soldiers, medical staff, even farmers.” So keep an eye out for self-healing clothes — they may be closer than you think.

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