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Smart textile can be used as an emergency immobiliser for accident victims

06 March 2013

Varstiff is a smart textile material that can adopt different shapes; when vacuum is applied to it, it turns rigid, achieving a hardness equivalent to that of a conventional plastic.

Varstiff could replace plaster of Paris in orthopaedic procedures
Varstiff could replace plaster of Paris in orthopaedic procedures

The material reverts to its flexible state once the vacuum is released. The first product to include Varstiff will be an emergency immobiliser for accident victims. The new material, which was created by the Centre for Applied Research Tecnalia Research & Innovation (Basque Country), can be adapted to any part of the body and in any situation; it can be fitted in its soft, malleable state, and when vacuum is applied to it, it becomes as stiff as plaster of Paris.

The material also offers solutions to other healthcare problems, like orthopaedics, where it has advantages over ordinary methods that use elastic straps closed using Velcro, or inflatable cushions. These apply pressure and therefore exert force on the skin - apart from lacking the necessary stiffness, they reduce comfort. 

In the automotive sector, the material might be used in the construction of seats that adjust to the passengers body shape or in systems for absorbing energy in doors. The researchers also believe it has a role in high-performance protection textiles for extreme sports or for security personnel.

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