Project to Develop "Fabric of the Future" Launched

April 29, 2016

The U.S. Department of Defense announced in early April it is providing up to $75 million during the next five years in order to help develop the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Alliance headquartered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and driven by manufacturing.

When announcing the partnership, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said combining fibers with electronic sensors, solar cells and circuits can create clothes that "can see, hear, sense, communicate, store energy, regulate temperature" and more.

"This is an exciting project and is certain to include wool as one of the raw products in developing fabrics of the future," said Rita Kourlis Samuelson, director of wool marketing for the American Sheep Industry Association. "The chief technology officer of the alliance, Carole Winterhalter, is someone who has a proven track record in facilitating wool research and it will be our pleasure to offer any assistance we can to this project."

Overall, the partnership is gathering together 72 manufacturing groups, 26 startup incubators, 32 universities and 62 subject matter experts, as well as 27 states and about $317 million in funding. The alliance's goal is to research and develop fabrics woven together with technology to increase the functionality of clothes worn by members of the military, first responders and other workers. It is intended to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets allowing access to cutting-edge capabilities and equipment and create an unparalleled environment to educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills.