Twillica — Transforming Your Closet with Carbon Nanotubes

Clean enough for a meeting with clients but casual enough for a get-together with friends.

Jolie Li
Twillica

--

Written by: Jolie Li, Parmin Sedigh, Klara Zietlow, Sora Shirai

170,000 years ago, clothing was invented. Now 170,000 years later, not much has changed…

Have you ever struggled to fit all your clothes for traveling? If so, you’re not alone. The average American buys 68 garments every year. No wonder we never have enough space to fit it all.

On top of increasing your packing stress, the way we handle clothes today also has great environmental implications. To meet our demand for more clothing, the amount of new garments produced today is nearly triple that of the 1960s.

This means more valuable resources are consumed and more CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, just to create these clothes.

Perhaps most concerning is the fact that on average we only wear each piece of clothing 7 times before throwing it away.

Almost 15 million tons of clothing is wasted every year in the US. All this has led the textile industry to be responsible for ⅕ of industrial water pollution and 1.2 billion tons of CO2 annually emitted into the atmosphere.

Introducing: Twillica

But Twillica’s changing that.

With Twillica, you’ll no longer need all those clothes in your suitcase. You’ll no longer need to think about dressing for the weather. And you’ll no longer need to worry about the environmental implications of what you decide to wear.

With just one jacket, Twillica will prepare you for any adventure you decide to go on next. Packing lighter doesn’t mean you need to be unprepared.

By combining a multitude of next-generation technologies including carbon nanotubes and shape memory polymers, the Twillica jacket allows for adjustability of heat and breathability while also being eco-friendly, waterproof, lightweight, long-lasting, and machine washable.

Breaking the Limits of Clothing

Twillica is a moonshot clothing company aiming to revolutionize what our everyday clothing can do 🚀 . In the next 5–10 years, we plan to launch a clothing line of garments with layers of fabric that can switch temperatures, breathability, and hydrophobicity using carbon nanotube technology and shape-memory polymers (SMPs).

With 3 simple buttons on your garments, you can manually adjust your clothing experience by sending electric currents and changing fiber tightness in different layers of the jacket.

Our goal is simple: to combine both technology and fashion to create a jacket that you’ll never have to, or want to, change.

Meet Our Materials

The Brains of the Operation: Carbon Nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are (nanometer-sized) cylinders made of carbon atoms, and they have an abundance of valuable traits making them the perfect material for our jackets.

For example, CNTs have bonds that make them even stronger than diamonds 💎. They have exceptional thermal conductivity and dissipate heat better than any other nanomaterial. Finally, CNTs are thin, chemically stable, and elastic.

Carbon nanotubes are still an active area of research so there could be even more beneficial properties. To summarize, incorporating them into our clothing is what allows us to give the clothing its durability and ability to warm you up or cool you down.

Carbon nanotubes under a microscope, showing how thin they are. Credit: https://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/feature/making-nanotubes-without-harming-the-environment/

The Jocks: Shape-Memory Polymers

Shape-memory polymers shifting their structure based on temperature changes. Credit: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmats.2015.00062/full

Shape memory polymers (SMPs) are active smart materials that can switch between one or two temporary shapes and an original shape. Their market size is valued at $392.4 million in 2020, and is projected to exhibit 21.5% growth from 2021 to 2027.

Breathability is a constant factor in today’s clothing, and it often determines the comfort of the clothes we wear.

Once you buy clothes with a certain level of breathability, you can’t change it unless you purchase another garment.

Incorporating the technology of shape-memory polymers in clothing will change that. Its ability to change its form based on temperature allows the sizes of pores and the compactness of fabric threads to vary. We’ll dive right into the details exclusive to Twillica’s clothing now.

3 Layer Properties: Temperature, Breathability, and Waterproofing

The product uses both carbon nanotubes and shape memory polymers which allows you to manually change the temperature, breathability, and degree of water resistance of your jacket!

The carbon nanotubes are treated to create a film just like the one shown below.

Credit: From F. Xu et al, “In-plane mechanical properties of carbon nanotube films”. This is an example of what the CNT film would look like. However, due to its thinness and it being inside the fabric, it would not be seen by you, the wearer!

The film is used to adjust the temperature of your jacket using currents. Yes electrical currents. These can be applied both towards the cloth and away from it.

This means that the heat either goes towards you to insulate you or away from you to drag heat into the environment.

Shape memory polymers are used to adjust the clothing’s breathability. This is because they can memorize up to 3 shapes and rapidly alter between different ones based on temperature changes. And since we can alter the temperature of the carbon nanotubes manually, we can also change the shape of these polymers.

When the temperature increases from the nanotubes, the polymers will compact together into their first temporary shape.

This ensures that the person stays warm and the heat does not escape, therefore decreasing breathability.

When the temperature of the carbon nanotubes cool, the polymers will loosen and expand, therefore making the material more breathable for you.

The fibers incorporated into the carbon nanotubes and shape memory polymers will include cotton, polyester, and nylon. These will have a hydrophobic coating so they don’t absorb water.

The degree to which the clothing is waterproof, though, can be adjusted. When the polymers contract and become smaller, the clothing becomes more waterproof as it allows no water in. When the polymers expand and have spaces between them, the water can more easily penetrate the fabric.

Buttons Galore

“But how can I control all of these awesome features?” you ask. It’s pretty simple! You can do so using only three buttons that are fashionably hidden inside the pockets.

One of these buttons will direct the current in one direction. Through this awesome physics effect called the Seebeck effect, the carbon nanotubes will heat up, heating you and the jacket up alongside it. In addition, the shape memory polymers will contract to become less breathable and more insulating.

When you want to cool down, you can press another button that directs the current in the other direction. This cools down the nanotubes, thereby cooling your body. The polymers, therefore, become more breathable.

The final button offers an extra feature. It activates a circuit breaker for manual control if you don’t want to keep the heat or cold coming. When it’s clicked the current will immediately stop and the polymers will slowly return to their original state of semi-breathability.

Here’s how everything comes together!

Scoping Out the Competition

But you may have already heard of some other clothing brands trying to revolutionize the space like:

  • Ministry of Supply Jacket — Heats up jacket with carbon fibers. Has a wireless phone charger and utilizes machine learning to “know” what temperature you want the jacket to be.
  • Columbia Travel Jackets — 2 or 3 in 1 jackets that come with a warm inner layer and waterproof outer shell in addition to the jacket. These can be taken out if it’s too hot/not needed. The fur hood trim can also be taken out.
  • Columbia Omni Freeze Shirt — Polyester base of the shirt is embedded with thousands of 0.15-inch hydrophilic polymer rings (a men’s medium has >41,000 of them). As the base spreads sweat, the rings absorb moisture and expand into three-dimensional doughnuts. In order to swell, the rings require energy, which they gather as body heat. In tests, the shirt was up to 10 degrees cooler against the wearer’s skin than cooling shirts made from any other material.
  • Gore-tex — Waterproof, breathable clothing.

But the products from these companies can’t convert temperature, breathability, and waterproofing at the same time.

What’s more, the ones that do have some interesting features are automatic, taking away your freedom to choose the settings.

Let’s say you were incredibly sensitive to the cold, while your friend cared more about breathability. The other clothing brands mentioned above wouldn’t satisfy you both. Twillica, on the otherhand, will.

Economic Breakdown 💸

Working on problems like solving climate change or conserving species diversity can cost billions of dollars, and it becomes very difficult to economically incentivize the initiative.

The difficult question has always been, who’s going to pay for it? Fortunately, with clothing the answer is simple.

The clothing market around the world is projected to grow from 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars in 2020 to about 2.25 trillion dollars by 2025. 2.25 trillion dollars.

This unfathomable number is solid proof of the rising demand for clothing and shoes across the world. Each standard family spends an average of $18000 per year on clothing. And don’t even get us started on the $1000 t-shirts floating around in markets right now.

Enough chit chat. Let’s get down to the numbers.

Manufacturing the Carbon Nanotubes

We should first start by calculating the weight of the carbon nanotubes needed per jacket. To do this, we can take a look at the density of the carbon nanotubes, which is 1.67 g/cm3. Then by rearranging the density formula, we can arrive at our answer.

Let’s assume we need a surface area of 4000 cm2 per jacket. Then taking into account the thickness of the carbon nantubes film, which is about 10.2 μm, the volume becomes 4.08 cm3. Finally, putting all of the components together, we get a weight of about 6.81 g.

Now onto what this would cost. With new experimental heat reactors that can produce up to 750 g of the film per day, the cost becomes rather small. While there are no exact numbers out there, we assume the cost of the materials, including ethanol, ferrocene, and thiophene, and the reactor together to be around $90. Put it on the tab.

Shape Memory Polymers

A lined jacket can weigh about 3–3.5 lbs, and the polymers cost less than $10 per pound. 3/2 = 1.5 * 10 = $15 per jacket.

Typical Fabric

Our jacket is full of awesome tech but we need some regular old fabric too as the base material. To be more precise, we need 2 meters per jacket.

On average, cotton fabric costs $7.5 per yard (0.9144 meters). 2*7.5*0.9144 = ~$13.72 per jacket.

Ultra-Ever Dry Coating

For water resistance, we’ll be using this hydrophobic coating. It uses nanotechnology that will completely repel almost any liquid.

It’s a super hydrophobic (water) and oleophobic (hydrocarbons) coating that creates a barrier unlike any seen before through its two coat application process.

The average coating is 4–6 μm in height. And there is 1.0E-15 grams in one micron.

The Ultra-Ever Dry coating prices out at $53/quart (0.95 liters) for the bottom coating and $96/quart for the top.

So doing some quick math here we would need 53/946 = 6 cents per gram for the bottom coat, and 96/946 = 10 cents per gram for the top coat.

And doing some more crunching we’re left with 7.2E-11 cents per jacket for the top coating and 1.2E-10 cents per jacket for the bottom coating, giving us a grand total of 1.92E-12 dollars per jacket.

Piezoelectric Button

A 10-pack costs $24.00, meaning $2.40 per jacket.

Packaging and Shipping Costs

This is a pretty general calculation and comes out to $4.00 per jacket.

General Manufacturing Cost

And here the estimated average clothing unit cost is on a range between $10 and $25 so $17.50 on average.

Buying in Bulk = Saving Lots of Money

But we’re not just doing this at home! We have the power of buying bulk on our side. Based on estimates, buying in bulk brings down prices by about 30%. And this is a lower estimate.

So… drum roll please 🥁🥁🥁

Our grand total for the manufacturing and packaging/shipping costs comes out to $99.83.

But How About Consumer Price?

Similar brands price their jackets anywhere from $200 to $899. Based on the fact that we are using cutting-edge technology and considering our manufacturing costs, we’ll be pricing our jacket at $450.

What’s Next For Twillica?

The technology right now is pretty amazing but there’s so much more we can do as it continues improving over the next 5–10 years. Here are some of the goals at the forefront of our vision…

At Twillica, we care deeply about customer choice and freedom. It’s one of our founding principles! So we want to increase the control you have over the temperature and breathability aspects while keeping the same amount of current and buttons. While this isn’t possible at this very moment with shape memory polymers, we’re keeping our eyes peeled.

Next up: speeding up production. Carbon nanotubes have made a lot of progress but the production is still not as fast as conventional clothing as you might have guessed. With new reactors on the way, this is changing and as it does, so will Twillica.

Finally, expansion. The Twillica jacket will always have a special place in our hearts, but we’re not stopping there. We’re planning on expanding to clothing outside of jackets like pants, hoodies, and t-shirts.

Twillica’s Quick Takeaways

In case you just scrolled to the end (I see you 👀), here are the quick takeaways you need about Twillica:

  • Twillica’s mission is to create the jacket. One that you’ll wear for every occasion, everyday, regardless of the temperature or weather.
  • We’re doing this using some exponential technologies: carbon nanotubes and shape memory polymers
  • The carbon nanotubes will heat you up or cool you down on demand
  • The shape memory polymers will adjust the breathability of the jacket based on whether you’ve chosen to warm up or cool down
  • There will be three buttons: one for heat + less breathability/more insulation, one for coolness + more breathability, and one that’ll stop everything and revert the jacket to its original, semi-breathable state
  • We’ll be making about $350 per jacket in profits

Haven’t gotten enough of Twillica? Want to learn the nitty-gritty of the technicalities behind our product? Don’t fret, our technical article is here to save you; just click right here!

Since you’ve made it to the end, you deserve a special prize (or actually, a few)!
🎁 Twillica’s Website
🎁 Twillica’s One-Pager
🎁 Twillica’s Intro Video

P.S. check out our references here and don’t hesitate to contact us with any comments or questions at wearetwillica@gmail.com.

--

--

Jolie Li
Twillica

I wrote about my journey in building and learning about rising technology like virtual reality.