Posted April 1, 2016

$75 million national research initiative focuses on functional fabrics

As part of a mid-Atlantic cohort of university partners, Temple will investigate the use of new materials for a number of applications.

White fabric spinning on a loom.
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
Temple University is participating in the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America program as part of the mid-Atlantic cohort, which will lead investigations into designing, modeling and predicting the utility of new fibers, materials and yarns.

The U.S. Department of Defense has tapped Temple University as a partner in a $75 million national research institute that will support U.S. textile manufacturers in bringing sophisticated new materials and textiles to the marketplace.

The institute, called Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, will be a national manufacturing resource center from which industry and government can draw the expertise of academic researchers working with new fibers, fabrics and materials and developing the technology that can integrate them into products from activewear to protective armor.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter will formally recognize the program as one of the White House’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Institutes in a ceremony at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on April 1. The initiative is a $350 million public-private effort to boost the value of U.S.-made products on the international market by using new materials and manufacturing methods.

“Temple’s inclusion in the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America program is a testament to the high-quality research capabilities in materials, fabrics and smart technologies that can be used for new textile development. This is based on the quality of our faculty in the College of Science and Technology and the College of Engineering,” said Vice President for Research Administration Michele Masucci. “We are committed to engaging in cross-cutting interdisciplinary research that leverages the collective knowledge of our investigators and spurs discovery that changes lives.

Masucci added that a large number of faculty members across Temple will participate in this research effort.

The research consortium includes 31 academic institutions, including Cornell and Ohio State universities, University of California, Davis, and University of Michigan. It counts 16 companies as industry partners, among them Bose, Goodyear, Microsoft, Medtronic, Nike and the North Face. In addition, 26 startup incubators and venture capital groups have pledged to support the initiative.

Temple is part of a mid-Atlantic research hub led by Drexel University that links research institutions including Carnegie Mellon, Penn State and Philadelphia universities, MEDStudio at Thomas Jefferson University, and University of Delaware to manufacturing and investment partners Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeast Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia Office of Manufacturing and Industry, DuPont, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

The mid-Atlantic cohort will lead investigations into designing, modeling and predicting the utility of new fibers, materials and yarns, as well as using those new materials to build prototypes of functional fabrics for apparel, architecture, consumer electronics, the defense industry, healthcare and transportation.

The group also will offer industry partners expertise in structural analysis of fibers, textiles and yarns, and computational modeling programs that will help partners anticipate manufacturing challenges before they arise and create strategies for surmounting them.

Those predictive tools are only some of the resources available to established industry partners, startup companies and small to mid-size manufacturers. Companies also will benefit from a large network of pilot manufacturing and prototyping and facilities led by experts in fiber and fabric innovation, with physical and digital archives of fibers and fabrics properties.