'Smart material' as a concept is nothing new in the realm of science these days. But perhaps you can consider this one something a bit more interesting due to its potential implications for the future. 

A team of researchers from Rice University claims to have developed a new kind of smart material, which they say is as strong as Kevlar but with the softness of cotton. It's also as conductive as a lot of metals, and the cotton-like consistency makes it wearable and washable like normal clothing while also potentially turning sportswear into "smart wearables," reports The Daily News

Sports apparel
(Photo : Getty Images)

The tech that made this possible involves the use of carbon nanotube threads. These threads work just like the wires in an EKG device, which helps detect heart conditions by measuring heart rhythms. But the main difference of this tech is that it can be sewn into a t-shirt without fear of sustaining damage from stretching, sweating, washing, and repeated wearing. 

There is huge potential for the development of smart wearables with this kind of technology. According to the official post on the Rice University website, people who want/need to monitor their vitals for specific reasons won't have to wear cumbersome devices such as smartwatches or chest straps anymore. Their t-shirt could literally do the job for them. 

But this is just one proposed application. According to the study's lead author Lauren Taylor, the new smart material can also be used to develop next-gen military uniforms. With this sewn into the lining of a combat jacket, for instance, military high command will be able to accurately track the location of their personnel with barely any hassle on the part of the soldier. 

Oliver Dewy, another member of the research team, has high hopes for the smart material they developed. He states that it will be almost impossible to find flexible threadlike materials like carbon nanotube fibers that can be used for both clothing and large-scale construction projects. This could be the future of wearable technology. 

Read also: New Study Explores the Use of Wearable Tech and Telehealth in Parkinson's Disease Treatment

Smart Material 101: How Does It Work? 

Quite simply, yes. The Rice University team's developed is nothing short of amazing, given how much its health applications are. They also claim that, given time, the tech they developed could also be upgraded to track even more vital signs. But how does this type of wearable tech work, exactly? 

What they did was simple enough. They took carbon nanotube fibers and sewed them right into the fabric of a traditional athletic shirt. Since the fibers are very conductive, they can relay information into a device like a smartphone or even a Holter monitor, which can be stashed in a user's pocket. 

Jogging lady
(Photo : Getty Images)

The only catch is that for now, the resulting smart material can only work if the garment is snug against the skin, according to Taylor. But she and her team are already planning to use denser patches of the nanotube fibers to improve the surface area. This could mean that you won't have to wear something form-fitting, especially if you don't feel comfortable about your body's appearance.  

Related: This Smart, Solar-Powered Backpack Will Charge Your Phone While You Head To Class

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Written by RJ Pierce 

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