September 22, 2010 / 7:01 PM / in 7 years

Spray-on clothes unveiled on chemistry lab catwalk

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - As the fashion pack leave London for Milan, one designer and a professor of particle technology unveiled their own unique collection made in one afternoon with spray-on fabric.

The pair, Manel Torres and Paul Luckham, are perfecting a fabric that can be sprayed onto skin and other surfaces to make clothes, medical bandages and even upholstery.

Torres, a visiting academic at Imperial College London, approached Luckham, an Imperial College professor of particle technology, to help him realize his dream of a spray-on garment that can be taken off, washed and worn again.

“Couture these days is almost dying,” Torres said. “I think here we have a good way of creating instant clothing -- that is not very expensive.”

Torres demonstrated the process in a lab at Imperial College, spraying a T-shirt onto a model in a matter of minutes. An experience the unnamed model described as “nice, actually.”

“It’s like second skin,” she said.

The system uses short fibers, such as wool, linen or acrylic, mixed with polymers to bind them together. A solvent which evaporates on contact with a surface allows the fibers to be sprayed out of can as a liquid.

The spray can be applied using an aerosol can or high pressure spray gun and the texture can be varied by changing the fibers and the numbers of layers of spray. The whole process also allows the material to be recycled.

“The beauty about this material is that...I will tear it into parts and I will dissolve it again with the same solvent and I will spray some of it in Rome in two days time,” Torres said.

Fashion is just one use of the technology and the pair have set up a company to explore other applications, such as medical patches and bandages, hygiene wipes, air fresheners and upholstery for furniture and cars.

Luckham says the technology could see a change to the way we think about using fabric -- for example a sterile duster could be sprayed onto a surface which needs to be cleaned.

“The advantage of having it in an aerosol can is that once the material is inside nothing can get in and so no germs can get inside,” he said.

The material can be hand-washed and Torres says more work is needed to ensure it can withstand a washing machine.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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