Asahi Kasei Paris Textile Fairs

Japanese textiles are in focus as the country’s innovations in material technology continue to take hold.

The latest textile developments from Japan include the work of Asahi Kasei, a global chemical and material science company, that recently received the Senken Shimbun Synthetic Fiber Prize for its sustainable GRS-certified yarn, the Roica premium stretch fiber. Its Roica yarn is part of the company’s “eco-smart” collection, a range of sustainable premium stretch fibers: Roica is created with more than 50 percent pre-consumer recycled content. The award is granted to Japanese companies, exclusively.

Japanese Textiles Lead in Traditional Techniques, Sustainability

And Japan’s growing economy has strengthened its presence in the U.S. and across other global markets: Japan is the third largest economy in the world after the U.S. and China, and it is the fourth-largest importer, all according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.

Key material research hailing from Japan in niche sectors such as electronic textiles was also recently released: Researchers from Kansai University in Osaka, Japan, are aspiring to integrate wearable polymer piezoelectric sensors with traditional Japanese kimonos and other fashion apparel.

Yoshiro Tajitsu, of Kansai University and Teijin Ltd., developed wearable PLLA, or polylactic acid, braided cord sensors embedded with piezoelectric technology and a conductive carbon fiber yarn core, among other conductive materials, that can be integrated across fashion, sports apparel, interior design and health care. Piezoelectric technology enables materials to generate an electric charge when in the presence of applied mechanical stress.

Asahi Kasei Paris Textile Fairs

Jackytex, a Cupro Roica blend by Asahi Kasei. 

Tajitsu said, “Our research is aimed at developing functional apparel, sometimes referred to as ‘e-textiles.’ We believe that wearable human-machine devices will enable people to interface with external devices naturally, without being limited or hindered by having to perform complicated movements, such as focusing on a display panel to rely instructions. Also, ‘e-textiles’ must be comfortable and fashionable for widespread acceptance. These ideas led to the development of our wearable sensors shaped like traditional Japanese braided cord, or Kumihimo, used in kimonos.”

Its piezoelectric material technology “produces electrical signals in response to almost any type of three-dimensional motion, including bending and twisting. Importantly, these coaxial cable type fabrics are woven into piezoelectric braided cords for electromagnetic shielding and high sensitivity so they will not respond to environmental noise from cells phones and other such electromagnetic interference,” according to the university.

Current aesthetic applications include three types of traditional Japanese decorative knots made with PLLA braided cords — called Kame, Kicchyo and Awaji — that are used as part of traditional kimonos worn by women, the university said. “We analyzed the magnitude of electrical signals that we could expect for each of these three knots. Our finite element calculation showed that the largest signal would be produced by the Kame and Kicchyo knots, and that the response from the Awaji know would be very small. So we use the Kame and Kicchyo knots for potential applications.”

And the university is examining the possible connections between traditional Japanese apparel and smartphone use. “We are working with fashion designers in France and Italy [for] the design of clothes made with our PLLA braided cords,” Tajistu said. “We are looking into possibilities for traditional Japanese clothing like women’s kimonos with partners in Japan.”

Other potential applications of PLLA braided cords include fabricated decorative necklaces with Kame and Kicchyo knots that can monitor pulse rates. “The subject does not feel any discomfort with the necklace, so it is a very useful portable device for monitoring health care,” Tajitsu added.

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