Are bacteria the answers to all our sweaty problems?

When you think of bacteria and sportswear, you might think of a sports bag that should have been washed long ago. A new project out of MIT labs is showing how bacteria-encased textiles can play a role in improving performance by adapting to every sweaty occasion.

Bacillus Subtilis is a bacterium found in soil and even humans. Grown for the purposes of research at the MIT labs, the bacterium has the amazing ability to shape-shift in reaction to their surroundings. When exposed to heat and humidity, the bacteria expand, which can be used to trigger movement (in this case, ventilation) in sportswear garments.

Researchers at the lab have created latex garments with vents. Each side of the fabric is laced with the bacterium. When heat and humidity form next to the bacteria they expand, creating a surface that opens, like little windows allowing body heat to escape.

As we all know, exercising can make body temperatures rise. Sweat is the body’s natural way to cool down, however, a decrease in performance is inevitable. By creating room to get rid of extra heat, an athlete would be able to workout longer and more intensely.

MIT is already in talks with New Balance to commercialize the technical fabric. Potential collaborations would be bacteria-vents in the soles of shoes, so feet remain ventilated throughout the day. While New Balance is known for its sportswear, they’ve consistently aimed to up their offering with technology. Earlier this year at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, they showcased their RunIQ smartwatch in partnership with Intel. The company also made headlines in 2016 when it announced its 3D-printed shoe.

Although the fabric isn’t commercially available yet, the MIT team confirmed their interest in co-development in the near future. New Balance + MIT seem like a match made in heaven, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Feature image via bioLogic. 

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