"Smart" athletic clothing laden with bacteria (on purpose)

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/08/smart-athletic-clothing-la.html


One big challenge though is that it doesn’t hold up to a wash cycle.

Not to mention the marketing cycle.


What component of natto makes it smell like natto? If it’s the bacteria, there’s yet another marketing hurdle to overcome.


This could potentially be used more for top level competitions. High cost of the garments wouldn’t matter as much and the single use nature of it also would not be a factor. It’d just need to be used in the moment and then the athlete could swap out to a new outfit once they’re ready for the next event or round.

For consumer market this would be an interesting product but it seems like it’d be fairly niche. I can’t see the average person paying a premium for something like this. Even if it could stand up to multiple washes.


As a bike commuter I’d pay for fabrics embedded with odor eating bacteria.


For this particular concept it doesn’t eliminate odor, it automatically vents as you sweat. But i do believe that there is existing technology that will combat odor causing bacteria with using woven silver into the garment as an antibacterial. I have no clue how well it works though.


…in bed.

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That activates my Trypophobia. Can’t look.


Activated charcoal oughta do the job, but I couldn’t find any fabrics on Amazon that already have it built in.

Right, because the average person when being athletic outside would just bring a windbreaker or hoodie.

…And then take it off when they got hot.


I’ll just leave this here.

ETA: If you don’t feel like clicking it’s a youtube commercial for the Better Marriage Blanket, which absorbs fart odors.


Exactly lol, the market for this just seems to be very very niche. I can’t see the use case for this beyond competitive/pro sports.

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Yuuup. Fuck nope.

They picked bacteria because it had been used on some unrelated research. I’d think that super absorbent polymers – like those used in baby diapers – would work better.

MIT researchers designed athletic clothing that’s laden with bacterial cells that enable them to have you automatically open up your wallet.

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As moisture control that might work; but it could get pretty uncomfortable pretty fast:

If you are sweating; it’s (typically, there are edge cases) because you are in need of some evaporative cooling.

Clothing that opens up to provide a stready stream of comparatively cool and low-humidity air(at leas relative to the stuff that has been trapped right next to your sweaty skin) is going to make you less damp because more sweat evaporates, so you’ll also cool down. Clothing that absorbs sweat extremely efficiently will make you less damp; but will short circuit any potential evaporative cooling; leaving you at the temperature that caused you to start sweating in the first place; as well as gradually getting heavy with absorbed sweat.

Not necessarily a bad trade off in specific areas(eg. keeping sweat out of your eyes; or managing moisture in a hazmat suit that would be failing at its one job if it started opening holes to the environment); but for athletic purposes super absorbent polymers would mostly be a good way of keeping sweating from providing any cooling effect, which gets to be a real problem.


The long term could get tricky because you’d need to feed the bacteria; and avoid having the ones you want outcompeted by some random wild type that doesn’t do what you need; but I’d be very curious to know if some sort of suitably textured/surface-porous fiber could encourage biofilm formation.

It’s more commonly a nuisance than a design advantage(whether brushing your teeth or trying to actually sterile sterilize something); but biofilms are absurdly tough. The bacteria close to the surface snuff it pretty easily; but the ones deeper in the polysaccharide matrix are basically procaryotic Vault Dwellers; and at bacterial reproduction rates it doesn’t take many survivors for the population to boom once the conditions become less harsh.

If they can get their pet bacterial strain to hole up in the crevices of specially crafted fibers, they could weave ‘reservoirs’ of bacteria throughout the garment at intervals, so that after a washing the population would expand back out into the flaps and restore function within a reasonably short period of time.


Not on a hardcore bike ride! I would much prefer clothing that adapts than needing to stop, dismount, and stow away. And as it happens, I am the average person, in every respect.

And if you need evaporation, you probably don’t wear a jersey made from latex, of all things!

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If you are cold, you are not going fast enough. :wink:

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Oh, that’s not what I meant. Instead of absorbing all the sweat (like diapers do), I was thinking this would work on the same principle as the bacteria:

… so not enough to absorb all the sweat, but enough to open the flaps. It would depend on the absorption ratio and how much each material expands, but I’d think plastic would survive a wash much better than organic material (which is what the detergents are targeting). Maybe the ends of the polymers can be attached to the fabric, like kelp on a sea bed.