Selected Projects

Laboratory for Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles
Contact area

The clothing properties depend not only on the properties of the fabric alone but, to a great extent, on the thickness and the shape of the layers of air trapped within the clothing. The determination of parameters of the air layers is as important as the knowledge of properties of the fabric itself. Thus, the aim of this study is to investigate the shape of these air layers using a 3D body scanner, expressed as contact area and thickness of the air gap between clothing and the skin under various wearing conditions.

Contact: Dr. Agnieszka Psikuta
All-in-one-shelter system: Using body heat to keep a shelter warm

In collaboration with the start-up "Polarmond", we developed an «all-in-one» shelter system. Inside the shelter conditions remain comfortable whatever the weather outdoors, thanks to a sophisticated dehumidifying system and a fine-tuned temperature control mechanism.

More information can be found here or on YouTube

Project partner: Polarmond, Wil

Contact: Martin Camenzind

Solar Impulse

The temperature range in the cockpit of the solar impulse airplane is varying from -10°C during the night up to approx. 25°C on a sunny day. Due to the limited space in the cockpit, the pilot is hardly able to adapt to this temperature changes by changing clothing. The clothing should therefore offer a sufficient thermal insulation and a good moisture transport. The project’s goal is the development of a clothing system with an adaptive insulation, offering the pilot a good wearing comfort for all the different temperatures.

Contact: Markus Weder

Low friction socks

The goal of this project was the development of new socks and shoes for the Swiss Army. The main focus was the reduction of blister formation by optimizing the friction and moisture transport properties of the system sock/shoe. The sweat transport and absorption of different sock structures and fiber types were microscopically analyzed using X-ray tomography. Several sock prototypes were then characterized using a sweating foot model, validated in human subject tests in the climatic chamber as well as in the field.

Contact: Dr. René Rossi
Pressure Dummy

In the further development of luggage and protective systems, beside the functionality, the wearing comfort stands in the centre and the pressure distribution on the skin plays a cardinal role. A pressure-sensitive dummy should be developed to conduct the comparison and evaluation of different systems (backpacks, protective and casual vests) with regard to the pressure distribution in the contact surfaces on the upper part of the body.
The dummy should be rigid and composed of all upper parts of the body incl. head, arm and leg stumps. The surface has to show pressure properties similar to the human skin and should be provided at the selected locations with pressure-sensitive foils. The main movements of a walking human body will be simulated using a mechanical drive.

Project partner: armasuisse, Berne

Contact: Rolf Stämpfli
Prospie (EU project)

Prospie aims at supplying working people with personal protective equipment that enables them to work longer in protective clothing with less discomfort. Innovative cooling methods, like forced ventilation, phase change materials and encapsulated endothermic salts, will be integrated with protective clothing. Sensors in the suit will measure relevant physiological data, such as skin temperature, heat flux and heart rate, to assess the thermal status of the worker, and the environmental conditions (temperature, relative humidity). The physiological signals will be used in an algorithm that will generate a warning signal when a certain safety threshold is surpassed.

Contact: Dr. René Rossi
Steam burns – Moisture management in firefighter protective clothing

The typical working environment of a firefighter is hot and very moist. Sweat produced while working in this environment is caught in the clothing layers and hardly escapes to the environment. The moisture trapped in the clothing layers not only affects the heat transfer properties but it may also cause steam burns. If a wet clothing combination is exposed to a sudden temperature rise or to thermal radiation, the moisture inside the clothing layers evaporates and moves towards the skin where it can cause burns.
Aim of the project is to understand the process of heat and moisture transfer in firefighter protective clothing and to define propositions for new textile combinations in order to prevent steam burns.

Contact: Dr. René Rossi
COST Action 357

Motorcycle helmets offer vital protection to the wearer in case of an accident. Nevertheless, heat transfer in such helmets is an issue with obvious importance in warm climates, where protection is often sacrificed to improve comfort. This suggests a need to understand the possible effects of such helmets on, e.g., the concentration of the rider, which could influence the accident likelihood. We study the heat transfer of integral motorcycle helmets and the influence of such helmets on comfort and cognitive abilities of subjects, in the framework of COST 357.

Contact: Dr. Simon Annaheim
COST Action 730

The overall objective of the project is to develop a physiological assessment model of the thermal environment in order to enhance applications related to health and wellbeing.
Body heat loss and the perception of temperature are influenced by many factors including local wind, sunlight and the clothing worn. To this aim, a universal thermal climate index is now under development. Empa is presently developing an advanced thermal manikin coupled with a detailed thermo-physiological model capable of simulating the human thermal response under well-defined climatic conditions.

Project partners: Uni Karlsruhe (D), Uni De Montfort (UK), Uni Loughborough (UK), MeteoSchweiz

Contact: Dr. Agnieszka Psikuta
Functional textile for decubitus prophylaxis

Prolonged pressure, friction and shear, as well as humidity are decisive physical factors in the development of decubitus. Until now, the role of textiles in the formation and prevention of decubitus has largely been unexplored. In this project, the contact mechanics (Figure) and the tribology at the skin-textile interface will be investigated in detail. In vitro and in vivo studies will be performed to assess the frictional behaviour of fabrics against skin as well as mechanical and chemical skin models in order to gain insights in the biotribology of human skin. On this basis, novel functional medical textiles for decubitus prevention will be developed.

Project partners: Kommission für Technologie und Innovation CTI/KTI; Schoeller Textiles AG; bluesign technologies ag; ETH Zurich, Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology; Bürgerspital St. Gallen, Centre for Geriatrics and Rehabilitation

Contact: Dr. Siegfried Derler
Intelligent Responsive Nanofibers - IRENA

This project aims at synthesizing bicomponent hydrogels with fast-response in the form of mechanically stable nanofibers with a drug loaded intelligent core. Additionally, we will incorporate magnetic nanoparticles in the fibers, which will allow the local heating of the non-woven membranes by magnetic induction. The obtained membranes with tunable morphologies can afterwards be embedded in advanced textiles for therapeutic purposes. The proposed encapsulation and delivery strategies can be adapted for non-medical applications, such as textiles for protection or cooling of the body.

Project partners: Empa, Laboratory for Advanced Fibers (St. Gallen); ETH Zurich - D-CHAB - ICB - The Morbidelli Group; Max Planck Institut für Polymerforschung (Mainz)

Contact: Dr. Giuseppino Fortunato

Temporal and spatial drug delivery from electrospun membranes

This work aims at developing a platform of non-woven membranes based on biopolymers able to deliver active ingredients to the skin, both locally and transdermal, with a high degree of control over the release kinetics. To this end we are synthesizing multi-component nanofibers with controlled morphology and degradation profile as to obtain a zero-order release rate. Additionally we are investigating the production of multi-component non-wovens, thus controlling the morphology of the membrane at microscopic level as to enhance the directional transport of the drug molecules.

Project partner: Laboratory for Biomaterials, University of Strasbourg 

Contact: Dr. Giuseppino Fortunato
Monitoring the Consequences of Obesity (ObeSense)

Multiple clinical guidelines about the identification, evaluation and treatment of overweight and obesity and its related risks already exist. However, these guidelines require the use of non-existing or inap-propriate long-term monitoring systems to efficiently evaluate different physiological markers. The goal of this project is to join the efforts of research groups in Switzerland involved in the monitoring of physiological markers to develop innovative and non-invasive sets of examination tools. The foreseen advanced tools are to be embedded into smart-textiles for the management of obese patients in the different phases of their health condition: in clinical as well as ambulatory environments.

Project partners: CSEM Neuchâtel; EPF Lausanne; Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudoise; Universitätsspital Zürich; Institut de Recherche de Réadaption, Sion

Contact: Michel Schmid
Development of a non-invasive glucose sensor (Glucolight)

The aim of this project is to build a non-invasive monitoring system that utilizes smart materials to measure the glucose concentration. The principle is based on a novel type of analysis of fluid, which passes through the skin. The smart material enables a self-calibrating measurement, which constitutes a unique novelty. The initial target population is preterm infants, because of the high clinical relevance and applicability; later adult patients will be addressed.

Project partners: Universitätsspital Zürich

Contact: Dr. Luciano F. Boesel
Development of a wound-pad sensor (FlusiTex)

In this project, we will develop a wound dressing with an embedded sensing layer for non-invasive wound monitoring using fluorescence lifetime detection. The sensing strategy relies on a functionalized coating of commercially available wound dressings. Functionalization comprises fluorescence modified polymer hydrogels, enzymes embedded in fluorescence labeled polymer coatings, and functionalized nanoparticles that also serve as a component of the coating layer. These sensing layers provide information on biochemically and physically relevant wound characteristics. A dedicated camera using a CMOS lock-in imager with fluorescence lifetime capability will be developed for periodically monitoring the response of the layers noninvasively, thus providing immediate feedback on the progression of wound healing at particular points in time. Since the wound healing process is not yet fully understood, studies on factors relevant for the process will be conducted by a medical team in parallel with the development of the sensor-pad.

Project partners: ETH Zürich; CSEM Landquart; Empa (Bioactive Materials); Universitätsspital Zürich

Contact: Dr. Luciano F. Boesel
Optical textile to prevent pressure ulcers in paraplegics (ParaTex)

Pressure ulcers continue to be disturbingly prevalent in paraplegics with a high prevalence of 85%. PU are open lesions in the tissue, which can be quite large. They heal slowly, are always a risk for serious infection and surgery have to be done to close PU. Besides pressure, blood and oxygen supply also plays an important role in pressure ulcer development. The sensor system consists of a photonic, textile based sensor patch with the ability to measure oxygenation, based on near infrared spectroscopy; perfusion, based on Photoplethysmography; and pressure, based on spatially resolved optical fibres.

Project partners: CSEM Neuchâtel; Swiss Paraplegic Center Nottwil; Universitätsspital Zürich

Contact: Dr. Luciano F. Boesel

Development of flexible polymeric optical fibers (TecInTex)

This project is co-founded by NanoTera and deals with the development of flexible polymeric optical fibers. These are fibers which can transport light. The production process of such fibers will be performed using a melt-spinning pilot plant at EMPA. Commercial optical fibers are normally done using a melt-draw technique which is much slower. The transparent polymers which are used in this project are partially synthesized in-house. We aim at integrating these fibers into fabrics using embroidery, weaving or knitting technics without losing any flexibility of the fabric. Chemically modified, these fabrics are to be used as wound sensor or as pulse-oximeter.

Project partners: CSEM Neuchâtel, Switzerland; ETH Zürich, Switzerland; Universitätsspital Zürich, Switzerland

Contact: Dr. René Rossi

Cooling garment for MS patients

Cooling of thermosensitive patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) can improve clinical symptoms, e.g., gross and fine motor performance, spasticity, muscle strength, and fatigue. To increase MS patients’ endurance while walking, we have developed a textile personal cooling garment which is independent of external supplies, light-weight, and adjustable to a broad range of topographies. The operational principle of the novel garment is based on water evaporation out of a thin 3-layer laminate, composed of two polymer membranes with a hydrophilic fabric in between acting as water reservoir.

Project partners: Unico Swiss tex GmbH; Klinik Valens

Contact: Markus Weder
Sensorshirt with Personal Textile Electrodes (PTE)

The most important problems in monitoring electrophysiological signals are the electrodes. Typically the electrodes are glued to the skin because they are designed only for a short term application of max. 24 hours.

Project description: Developing of a Shirt which is equipped with new embroided 3-D electrodes with a good conductance to the human skin. The electrodes are manufactured with plasma-coated PES fibres and embroided in different forms and shapes to achieve a suitable signal/noise ratio. The embroided electrodes yield a good signal also for elderly persons with dry skin.

Project partners: Odlo, Bischoff Textil AG, Strela, Schiller AG, NTB, STF, ETHZ, HSR

Contact: Markus Weder