Spray-on clothing sounds like the garb of the future but it’s already a reality at London’s Imperial College. Forget weaving and stitching clothes. A new material could be sprayed directly onto your body and have you ready to go out in minutes.
Particle engineer Paul Luckham and fashion designer Manel Torres from Imperial College London combined cotton fibres, polymers and a solvent to form a liquid that becomes a fabric when sprayed. The material can be built up in layers to create a garment of your desired thickness and can also be washed and worn again like conventional fabrics.
The spray consists of short fibres that are mixed into a solvent, allowing it to be sprayed from a can or high-pressure spray gun. The fibres are mixed with polymers that bind them together to form a fabric. The texture of the fabric can be varied by using wool, linen or acrylic fibres.
The fabric, which dries when it meets the skin, is very cold when it is sprayed on, a limitation that may frustrate hopes for spray-on trousers and other garments.
In addition to creating instant fashion, the technology could have a range of other uses – spray-on bandages, for instance. “It’s a sterilised material coming from an aerosol can, and you can add drugs to it to help a wound heal faster,” says Torres.