Department of Chemistry and Materials Science

ModelCom project

Autonomously adapting and communicating modular textiles (European Research Council – European Commission)
ModelCom webpage, main image, nylon yarn helix. Photo by Aalto University, Maija Vaara

Full title of the project: Autonomously adapting and communicating modular textiles (European Research Council – European Commission)

More about the project:

This project contributes to a paradigm shift for smart soft materials into user-customizable textiles that autonomously interact with their environment and communicate through changes in color or shape. This will be done by coupling modular thermo- and photo-actuators to the traditional European fiber art of bobbin lace. The envisioned color-shape-communicative textile networks will include an on/off command of embedded functionalities by modifying an established concept – coiled yarn thermoactuators – to have different selective coatings on inner and outer surfaces of the coils.

Furthermore, it is intended to create unprecedented photoactuating coiled yarns, in which visible light turns on the functionality in a thread. The developed nonconformal coating techniques will also enable multifunctional threads, in which different parts of the thread can be commanded by different wavelengths of light. Two-dimensional multifunctional structures will be developed using these thermo- and photo-actuating threads as building blocks. The modularity of these building blocks, combined with the multiple thread system and three different braiding actions of bobbin lace, will enable a wide combinatorial parameter space for interactive network structures. We will demonstrate a textile that can, either upon illumination or thermal stimulus, change its color, its breathability/permeability, and activate a third function, such as colorimetric detection of a biomarker.

These textiles could be used in clothes or window shades, e.g. adapting their warming/cooling capacity based on the external temperature or solar illumination. Such functional textiles would indirectly decrease the need for heating/cooling many buildings and allow energy savings, thus providing an important economic opportunity. Co-creating further textile innovations with communities of bobbin lacemakers will ensure that the impact of the action goes beyond the conventional in terms of both technological and societal impact.

Project team

Pedro Silva, Postdoctoral Researcher

Pedro Silva is currently undergoing his second postdoctoral term, devoted to studying structural-functional and smart materials in Jaana Vapaavuori's group. His PhD studies explored the dynamics of filaments with innovative geometries by using computer simulations and spinning techniques to produce anisotropic micro elastomers. This project is based on successful preliminary work on textiles done by this team during the summer of 2021.

Mithila Mohan, Project Employee

Fabric woven with Honeycomb Weave Structure incorporated with nylon coils that respond to heat. Photo: Aalto University, Mithila Mohan
Photo: Aalto University, Mithila Mohan

"In my current practice, I focus on creating sculptural woven fabrics integrated with smart-materials that can take a life of itself, respond to environmental stimuli, and play a functional role outside of the traditional textile realm. The research encompasses study of textile materials and experimentations with weaving techniques and structures that are most suitable for smart-materials to produce movement in the fabrics."

Photo description: Fabric woven with Honeycomb Weave Structure incorporated with nylon coils that respond to heat. The fabric folds as the nylon coils contract when exposed to heat. Material: Cotton and Nylon Coils

Maija Vaara, Project Employee

Photo: Aalto University, Maija Vaara
Photo: Aalto University, Maija Vaara

"My speciality is crafts and, more specifically, traditional Finnish craft techniques such as bobbin lace and tablet weaving. These crafts have been practised and improved across generations but they have not been separated from their ordinary purposes. We have made lace with bobbins, and belts or bands with tablets. 

In my work, I combine these old and sophisticated crafts with new materials like coiled moving yarns. I have created some beautiful shapes that will, hopefully, find some new purposes in the future."


In-situ Monitoring of Photo-controllable Wrinkle Erasure in Azobenzene-based Supramolecular Systems

Yujiao Dong, Pedro E. S. Silva, Jaakko Timonen, Jaana Vapaavuori* 2023 ChemPhysChem

Controlling the Self-Assembly of Hierarchical PS-b-P4VP Structures Prepared by Dip-Coating and Emulsion Breath Figure Techniques

Hoang M. Nguyen, Ariane Mader, Swarnalok De, Fevzihan Basarir, Jaana Vapaavuori* 2023 ChemistrySelect

Active Textile Fabrics from Weaving Liquid Crystalline Elastomer Filaments

Pedro E.S. Silva, Xueyan Lin, Maija Vaara, Mithila Mohan, Jaana Vapaavuori*, Eugene M. Terentjev* 2023 Advanced Materials

Potato virus A particles – A versatile material for self-assembled nanopatterned surfaces

Swarnalok De, Hoang M. Nguyen, Ville Liljeström, Kristiina Mäkinen, Mauri Kostiainen*, Jaana Vapaavuori* 2023 Virology

Ultra-long silver nanowires prepared via hydrothermal synthesis enable efficient transparent heaters

Fevzihan Basarir, Swarnalok De, Hamidreza Daghigh Shirazi, Jaana Vapaavuori* 2022 Nanoscale Advances

Intertwining Material Science and Textile Thinking : Aspects of Contrast and Collaboration

Emmi Pouta*, Riia Vidgren, Jaana Vapaavuori, Mithila Mohan 2022 The Design Research Society Conference (DRS2022) Design Research Society

Tuning the Porosity, Water Interaction, and Redispersion of Nanocellulose Hydrogels by Osmotic Dehydration

Valentina Guccini*, Josphat Phiri, Jon Trifol, Ville Rissanen, Seyede Maryam Mousavi, Jaana Vapaavuori, Tekla Tammelin, Thaddeus Maloney, Eero Kontturi 2022 ACS Applied Polymer Materials

Research output: Artistic and non-textual form

DIALOGUES - Creating New Textile Futures @ Dipoli

Mithila Mohan 2022 Dialogues: Creating New Textile Futures - Dipoli Gallery, Espoo, Finland. Duration: 28 Nov 2022 → 28 Feb 2023. Research output: Artistic and non-textual form › Exhibition › Art in coproduction › peer-review

DIALOGUES –Creating New Textile Futures

Mithila Mohan 2022 Dialogues - 80 W. Broadway, New York, NY 10007, New York, United States. Duration: 2 Nov 2022 → 6 Nov 2022. Research output: Artistic and non-textual form › Exhibition › Art in coproduction › peer-review


Designs for a Cooler Planet 2023 – Exhibitions

What don't we see even though we should – or could? Explore the exhibitions of Designs for a Cooler Planet 2023 to discover what Aalto students and researchers should be made visible.

Colourful abstract graphics for Designs for a Cooler Planet 2023 visual identity.

Beyond e-Textiles: ENTANGLED

Prototype exhibition of the 'Beyond e-Textiles' project

Entangled exhibition, Beyond e-Textiles project.

DIALOGUES Creating New Textile Futures | Aalto Virtual Exhibitions (external link)

DIALOGUES – Creating New Textile Futures by AaltoTEXTILES

Image from remote site:

Contact information:

Accountable project leader: Prof. Jaana Vapaavuori ([email protected])

Project team:
Pedro Silva, Postdoctoral Researcher ([email protected])
Mithila Mohan, Project Employee ([email protected])
Maija Vaara, Project Employee ([email protected])

Project page on the Research Aalto portal: ModelCom

Related content:

Multifunctional Materials Design

Group led by Professor Jaana Vapaavuori

MMD webpage main image. GIF image by Aalto University, Giulnara Launonen

AaltoTEXTILES network (external link)

AaltoTEXTILES is a network linking all textile-material related activities within design, technology and business at Aalto University

Image: Aalto University, AaltoTEXTILES network

Beyond e-Textiles project

Nordic network on smart light-conversion textiles beyond electric circuits

Beyond e-Textiles webpage, main image. Image by Aalto University, Giulnara Launonen, Maija Vaara, Mithila Mohan

ModelCom project presentation to students

Presentation by ModelCom researchers to Aalto students

Photo by Unto Rautio / Aalto University
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