CHENNAI: Imagine riding down the road wearing a leather jacket under the sweltering sun. It might sound ludicrous, but researchers at the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) have unveiled a project that could turn this outlandish scenario into reality soon.
With not much more than usual expenditure, the institute has come up with the technology to craft a special type of leather that can not only keep you about 3°C cooler than the outside temperature, but also give off fragrances like orange and lemon grass by using polymerisation.
“This new-age leather uses chemicals that can imitate real skin, even without the necessary neuro-transmitters,” said N Nishad Fathima, senior scientist at CLRI who has been working on the project that is part of the organisation’s 12th Five Year Plan.
It uses ‘Phase-Changing Materials’ or PCM, which in layman’s terms simply means a chemical that adapts to temperature change. In this process, a core-chemical, octadecane, is encapsulated within a reactive polymer shell before it is embedded in the leather. This allows for the polymer to shift form, from solid-to-liquid and vice versa, as the mercury levels shoot up or the chills set in. Repeating this process, the leather’s capacity to act like a weather-cop will be able to go on for long.
This puts everyday products like car upholstery, clothing and accessories two steps ahead.
Currently the developed smart-leather has the capacity to alter temperature by a margin of 3°C. “Process is ongoing to increase the capacity to manage up to at least a 10°C change,” said Raghava Rao J, Chief Scientist involved in the project.
While the smart aspect has been covered, the CLRI has also developed a tweaked-technology to make leathers appealing to the senses. This has helped them create a range of leathers that are colourful and have a pleasant fragrance, all done by the magic of a polymerisation process. Using molecules of substances like lemon grass, five types of ‘fragrant leathers’ have also been designed.
How It’s done
■ Octadecane is encapsulated within a reactive polymer shell and embedded in the leather. This allows the polymer to shift form
■ When it’s hot, it turns to liquid state and when it’s cold, it becomes solid
■ Using molecules of substances like lemon grass and lavender, fragrant and colourful leathers are created using a polymerisation process.
Leather is among materials that are harder to customise and turn into a showroom product. This is because it’s derived from animal hide, making it tougher to work with. But in this era of wearable technology and surging demand for cool and customised products, both scientists affirm that offering more is the way ahead.