Skip to main content

Penn State Researchers Create Denim That Repairs Itself

In the future ripped jeans will repair themselves.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have developed a textile that, when wet, will begin to repair any rips or tears. The technology works by dipping the textile in a series of enzyme baths that coat the fibers and allows the them to reattach to one another when torn.

The polyelectrolyte coating was inspired by positive and negatively charged polymers found in squid ring teeth proteins that use a similar method to repair damage. The new self healing coating developed by Penn State spares the squids however; the enzyme bath uses yeast and bacteria to replicate the squid tooth’s properties.

The miracle squid bath isn’t just good for repairing holes, it could also protect the wearer from dangerous airborne chemicals. Self healing garments might be coated in organophosphate hydrolase, an enzyme that is able to break down dangerous chemicals like pesticides and nerve agents before they reach the wearer’s skin, according to the release by Penn State.

Melik C. Demirel, professor of Engineering Sciences and Mechanics who worked on the project at Penn State is optimistic about the practical uses of this new technology. “We currently dip the whole garment to create the advanced material, but we could do the threads first, before manufacturing if we wanted to,” Demirel said.

“If you need to use enzymes for biological or chemical effects, you can have an encapsulated enzyme with self-healing properties degrade the toxin before it reaches the skin,” Demirel explains, and best of all “the coatings are thin, less than a micron, so they wouldn’t be noticed in everyday wear,” he said.

While many denim manufacturers are excited about technologies that give the wearer more comfort and mobility, the next textile breakthrough might be self-healing, and chemically resistant denim coated in enzymes.

“Fashion designers use natural fibers made of proteins like wool or silk that are expensive and they are not self-healing, we were looking  for a way to make fabrics self-healing using conventional textiles,” said Demirel.