Smart textile products offers development opportunities but also are a greater risk for the environment. The development of smart textile has brought up new challenges of sustainability for the garment and electronic industry. There has been increase in the environmental harm caused due to development of smart textiles. It not only has environmental but also societal and economical risks. The ideation of sustainability shall not be limited to only environmental cause but also to the societal for its long run.
Keywords: smart textiles, environmental, societal and economical sustainability
Smart textiles are the new niche product with greater scope in the market. The materials are capable of perceiving stimuli from the environment and reacts by modifying the structure automatically or by detecting the external data and interpreting them. Smart textiles have additional functions along with the common properties, to provide more solutions for applications in different fields like healthcare, protective wear, sportswear and technical textiles for automotive industry. Manufacturing smart textiles are more complex since there is innovative technological approach added to conventional textiles while manufacturing. Process like weaving, embroidery and knitting are combined with other technological spheres like coating, lithography and ink jet printing. These functional textiles are processed in different levels, like from the time fibers are made, till it is turned into fabric, to clothing. Understanding art behind it and other areas where there is a tendency for other drivers and development by technology through interaction with consumers and manufacturers. Smart textiles improve the quality of life. Sustainability of smart textiles depends on the material history and the ecological state of it. For sustainability there needs to be recyclability, which means removal of non recyclable elements.
Developing smart textiles require improvements for longevity like new technologies for production, new information and communications, material and products, innovations research and development. Sustainable development in smart textiles brings in more ability and potential for the future generation to meet their needs.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE SUSTAINABILITY
The consuming habits of the consumer is the main reason for waste generation. The consumer consumes the most in the initial days of the product. Most of the textiles are difficult to recycle because of the mixture of fibres. Chemical use is another problem affecting textile production with much usage of various pesticides and dyestuff. Also, usage of electronic devices for short running period creates more e-waste and often the textile waste is dumped alongside with it, instead of being recycled.
Improving the sustainability of smart textiles shall minimize the environmental impact by producing less waste, consumption of energy and material usage. It shall have longevity and shall efficiently support the environment; also it shall be of good support to the business revenue of any company.
WAYS TO MAKE SMART TEXTILE SUSTAINABLE
Making smart-textiles sustainable to reduce the environmental damage is through commitment and recycling the already produced products. Few of the ways are:
- SIMPLICITY: More usage of smart textiles as a carrier for simple and coarse sensors, such as resistive or capacitive sensors. It shall help obtain precision through multiple sensors and extrapolation of data.
- SURFACE: More usage of already existing surface textiles so that there is less need of infinitesimal sensors and electronic components.
- RELIABILITY: Ensure reliability through multiple data paths, parallel lines and fail safe circuitry. Nothing can be more frustrating than a smart- textile product that fails to work properly.
- MATERIAL: Focusing on a minimal use of materials, such as mono- materials.
- ENERGY: Usage of fossil fuels can create new possibilities for sustainable future. Also, creating more new possibilities by using materials for energy storage.
- RECYCLING: Disassembling of controlling circuits from the smart textile for longevity and longer usage. By mounting electronic hardware on the textile surface easily and in a removable way.
- DURABILITY: Improving the durability of the products by focusing on the quality, disposability, wear, reparability, functional obsolescence, technological obsolescence and aesthetic obsolescence.
- The way materials are developed should be considered carefully.
- Developing sustainable wearables using multi-disciplinary thinking.
Smart textiles is a boon and has been emerging in all fields. But if not used carefully, it shall has its own worst-case scenarios where wearable technologies will amplify impacts on the environment, human health, and societies. We should wisely focus on the sustaining factors and not just blindly follow a path of development. This way we can sustain and develop for the better good.
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