Hairy Memory

Girl with black curly hair

Getting in shape? So is… wool?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Curly or straight? Either way, your hair has a perfect memory. It REMEMBERS how it hung before you spent hours styling it. Can that super-power be put to use?

Luca Cera from Harvard University thought so. He created a material from sheep’s wool that has shape memory! How does it work?

The material is made of keratin – a protein found in hair and nails – and sheep’s wool! Keratin chains are like springs. They can form fibers that can be made into any shape with a 3-D printer. When the memory is set, the fibers can change shape, then snap back when exposed to water.

Smart wool means smart textiles! And ta-da! Smart clothes! Imagine — a dress that automatically fits to your measurements! This fabric could also help recycle and reduce waste in the fashion industry.

Frizzy hair? Don’t care! Cause my outfit is so SMART!

Reference: Cera, L., Gonzalez, G. M., Liu, Q., Choi, S., Chantre, C. O., Lee, J., Gabardi, R., Choi, M. C., Shin, K., & Parker, K. K. (2020). A bioinspired and hierarchically structured shape-memory material. Nature Materials.