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NEWS: 01/04/12 - Synthetic Optic Fibre (Invisible T-shirt) Research Breakthrough

Textiles Research Laboratory:
The University has been working in partnership with Rapanui Clothing, an award-winning eco fashion brand based on the Isle of Wight, to develop a textile that appears invisible to the naked eye. Synthetic Optic Fibre uses its light-transmitting properties to capture and relay an image at the speed of light from one side of the garment to the other.

The research has been around for a long time but the principle is actually fairly simple. The challenge is to capture light on the front of the garment, and relay it to the back - and visa versa.

Video explaining the synthetic optic fibre programme

Usually this is done with a series of small cameras and monitors, connected by fibre optics to relay the signal at the speed of light. The size (and cost) of this has held the technology back for some time. The breakthrough came when the camera and monitor were removed from the garment and instead the light-transmitting properties of fibre optics were used to relay the light instead - hence the name "Optic Fibre."

Rapanui's expertise and generous sponsorship of the programme allowed us to take this fibre and create a jersey textile and finally, a finished product - we decided on the simplicity of a t-shirt.

University textiles expert Professor Barry Green said it could be some time before the technology came to market, but an early application could be making landfill sites invisible.

"Sustainability is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem. For example, what if we threw invisible T-shirts onto open-air landfill sites, or even just on the street? No-one would know they were there" he added.

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