Ooblecks and smart textiles

Published On: September 27, 2017

What is an “oobleck”—and what does it have to do with smart textiles?

According to children’s author Dr. Seuss, an oobleck is a mysterious sticky substance which threatened the kingdom in his 1949 book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. But as smart textile engineer, Connie Huffa of Fabdesigns told her audience at ATA’s Advanced Textiles Conference Tuesday morning, an oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid that thickens and absorbs energy upon impact.

Companies such as D3O® in the U.K. are developing proprietary polymers based on non-Newtonian principles, which means that the molecules flow freely in their natural state, but lock together on impact to dissipate force. Fabrics impregnated with these shear thickening fluids are being prototyped as smart armor, industrial workwear and sports protection.

Huffa presented a tantalizing menu of smart textiles that morph or change in response to stimuli such as pressure, water, wind, temperature, sunlight and even emotion. As a result, she promises, materials will become lighter, stronger, increasingly customizable and more responsive to our needs, helping us to control the increasingly complex world around us.

by Debra Cobb