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INNOVATION INSTITUTES


sions, Miralon is “a next-generation textile/fiber-like mate- rial that has all the hallmarks of an aramid, a carbon fiber, as well as levels of conductivity of many metals,” Antoi- nette said. “It is kind of a unique structure right now.” Besides acting as a protective layer on the flight sys-


tem’s attitude control motor struts, as well as safeguarding against electromagnetic interference on the main engine housing, Miralon reduced Juno’s weight by replacing the traditional aluminum foil used by NASA. In aerospace, other opportunities for weight savings lay


in data cables made with Miralon yarn and tape, as well as in the lightweight honeycomb Nanocomp makes to cut aluminum structures’ weight. And Miralon, which is manufactured in Merrimack, NH, is being used in other applications—to augment or even replace Kevlar and carbon fiber.


Discovery Centers, starting in Cambridge, MA. The institute is bound to face competition from ITV


Denkendorf (http://www.itv-denkendorf.de/en/), Ger- many’s largest center of textile research, as well as popu- lations in Asia that have “very high-quality and high-level scientists, technologists and engineers,” said Antoinette, whose company is a member of AFFOA. “The AFFOA team is quite excited” about Miralon’s avail-


ability for experimentation in textile manufacturing, he said. In addition to aerospace and defense, AFFOA is revo- lutionary for consumer products, transportation, manufac- turing machinery and medical textiles and scanners.


‘A whole new take’ on fibers, fabrics Graphene maker Vorbeck Materials Corp. (Jessup, MD) is also joining AFFOA.


AFFOA CEO Yoel Fink, Vorbeck Materials President John Lettow and Bluewater Defense CEO Eric Spackey.


All this from industrial yarn and fabric? Indeed, the CNT-based composite material has earned a


prominent place in what experts agree is shaping up to be a global smart yarns race. At the first Smart Fabrics Summit, held in April in Wash-


ington, DC, US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said the smart fabrics market was up 18% last year to about $1.9 billion worldwide—with the US claiming about half of that. That summit followed a Smart Fabrics Europe show, held in Spain in 2013 for physiosensor engineers, textile manu- facturers and others. To compete with Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea, the US Department of Defense (DOD) in April formed Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), a consortium of 89 manufacturers, universities, and non-profits organized by MIT. AFFOA will also be the name of the new institute, which will have $317 million to spend for five years to pull the American textile industry into the digital age. AFFOA is part of the National Network for Manufactur- ing Innovation. The institute plans to set up several Fabric


24


Graphene is used to make yarn and sheets, and it has been the focus of much research in recent years. “We can incorporate the gra- phene both directly into the fibers to achieve different properties and then also in the sheets that, in es- sence, are applied between layers of fabric in different structures,” Presi- dent John Lettow said. AFFOA will eventually turn


today’s thinking about fiber and


fabrics on its head, he said. “We have been weaving fabrics and using fibers for thousands of years. But this is a whole new take on what those fibers and fabrics are going to be used for. Now, instead of just providing covering that is either robust or fashionable, it’s a real functional and integrated part of electronics and health systems, etc.” The consortium is “rethinking what our clothes are


made of, as well as the ropes and tethers and fiber-rein- forced composites like carbon fiber and glass fiber,” Let- tow said. “What is possible in terms of injecting technol- ogy into those areas?” Vorbeck is working with aerospace partners—Let-


tow declined to name them—to design graphene-based conformal antenna systems that can be incorporated directly into flexible panels and applied to the outside of aircraft. “They follow the lines of the air frame and don’t disrupt aerodynamics,” he said. “They are easier to install and provide superior connectivity and communications to some of the existing antenna designs.”


Summer 2016


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