Textile materials are used in all sports as sportswear, and in many games as sports equipment and sports footwear.
Examples of sportswear are: aerobic clothing, athletic clothing, football clothing, cricket clothing, games shorts, gloves, jackets, pants, shirts, shorts, socks, sweatshirts, swimwear and tennis clothing. Examples of sport equipment are: sails, trampolines, camping gear, leisure bags and rackets. Examples of sports footwear are: athletic shoes, football boots, gym shoes etc.
The evolution of fiber developments has gone through the phases of conventional fibers, highly functional fibers and high performance fibers. Initially polyester is the only fiber used in sports and active wear. After that polyamide, polypropylene, acrylic and elastanes are also used in active wears.
The new technological developments in hollow fiber production, fibers with irregular cross section, bicomponent fiber spinning, microfiber spinning, and Gel spun technology have contributed towards production of high-tech sportswear.
There has been many innovations and developments in textile materials and fibers for sports like,
- Intelligent textile,
- Biomimetic in textile,
- High performance fibers,
- Highly Functional fabrics and so on.
High Performance Fibers:
These fibers are extensively used in sports protective wear, sports equipment and in textile reinforcement in sports products for different applications.
Some of the speciality fibers are,
Para -aramid: To provide high strength and ballistics.
Meta-aramid: To provide heat and flame resistance.
UHMWPE – Ultra-High Tenacity Polyethylene fibers.
These are gel spun, ultra high molecular weight polyethylene fibers. They are with extremely high specific strength and modulus. High chemical and abrasion resistance.
These are cured phenol aldehyde. It provides high flame resistance, non-melting with high resistance to acid, solvents, steam, chemicals and fuels to the fabric. Good moisture regain and soft hand.
Polyetheretherketone fibers (PEEK):
Crystalline thermoplastic fiber with high resistance to heat and to a wide range of chemicals.
The need for functional fabrics in sportswear is increasing nowadays. The performance requirements of many such products demand the balance of widely different properties of drape, thermal insulation, barrier to liquids, antistatic, stretch, physiological comfort, etc.
By designing new processes for fabric preparation and finishing, and as a result of advances in technologies for the production and application of suitable polymeric membranes and surface finishes, it is now possible to combine the consumer requirements of aesthetics, design and function in sportswear for different end-use applications.
The fabrics for active wear and sportswear are also specially constructed both in terms of the geometry, packing density and structure of the constituent fibers in yarns and in terms of the construction of the fabric in order to achieve the necessary dissipation of heat and moisture at high metabolic rates.
Many smart double-knitted or double- woven fabrics have been developed for sportswear in such a way that their inner face, close to human skin, has optimal moisture wicking and sensory properties whereas the outer face of the fabric has optimal moisture dissipation behavior.
In addition to the innovations in highly functional man-made fiber-based fabrics, advances have also been made in cotton and wool fabrics for sportswear. An example is the development of `Sport wool’ weatherproof technology, where the constituent fiber, yarn and fabric properties and the fabric finishes of `Sport wool’ are supposed to create a drier and cooler microclimate..
Highly functional fabrics are generally characterized as being waterproof/moisture permeable, sweat-absorbing and with high thermal insulation at low thickness values. These fabrics are now extensively used in making sportswear and sports shoes.
Gore-Tex Airlock is a functional textile which was developed by Gore for the special needs of firefighters. The concept of this product is to eliminate the conventional, bulky, thermal insulation layer and substitute it by a protective air cushion. Dots consisting of foamed silicone are discontinuously applied to a fiber substrate and anchored within the micro porous Gore-Tex membrane. They measure only a few millimeters in height, creating a defined air cushion between the adjacent flame-retardant face fabric and the inner lining. This laminated fabric is characterized by thermal insulation, breathability, perspiration transport, absorption and quick-dry properties.
Biomimetic in textiles: (Biomimetic – imitation of living system)
The structure and function of natural biological materials are precise and well defined. By imitating the structure and function of a natural biological material we can obtain their molecular design and morphology.
Water and soil repellent fabrics are produced by imitating the surface structure of a lotus leaf. Water rolls like mercury on the surface of a lotus leaf, it is because of rough surface and the presence of wax like substance with low surface tension.
They are also called interactive textiles. These materials readily interact with human/environmental conditions thereby creating changes in the material properties.
The phase-change materials and shape-memory polymers embedded in fabric layers will be able to interact with a human body and produce thermoregulatory control by affecting the microclimate between the clothing and the human skin.
In addition to the two dimensions of functionality and aesthetics, if `intelligence’ can be embedded or integrated into clothing as a third dimension, it would lead to the realization of protective and safety clothing as a personalized wearable information infrastructure.