The functions of textile materials have remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years, inasmuch as they were traditionally used for clothing, household textiles and other conventional and technical applications. Modern challenges for engineers and manufacturers are to design and produce fibres and fabrics which monitor health, enhance athletic performance, store and convert energy, protect against flames and microorganisms while maintaining the properties of comfort, breathability, flexibility and washability.
The basis for these new capabilities is the functionalisation of fibres, yarns and fabrics with conductive, photocatalytic, hydrophobic/hydrophilic and biocidal properties. Functional textiles can also become parts of protective clothing that interface with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or medical monitoring clothing, in combination with flexible and lightweight electronics (textile connectors, smart sensors and actuators).
Textile materials, including micro- and nano-filaments, are also key resources for scaffolds in textile engineering, composite membranes in high-efficiency filtration/purification of liquids and gases for environmental applications and personal protective equipment.
A key challenge is to recycle and reuse textiles in view of a better exploitation of resources to meet the circular economy and improve sustainability for the production of advanced and innovative materials, such as electrospinning of natural proteins from textile by-products.
Other activities include the study and characterisation of composites, engineering plastics and elastomers for engineering and biomedical applications.