UGA joins fabric revolution

Author: Cal Powell

The University of Georgia is a partner in a new national public-private consortium to revolutionize the fiber and textiles industry through commercialization of advanced fibers and textiles for the defense and commercial markets.

The partnership, called Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, or AFFOA, was announced by the Department of Defense in April.

“UGA’s contributions to AFFOA tap into longstanding expertise in textiles, polymers and fibers, a track record of collaboration with industry, as well as our success in launching new businesses based on discoveries,” said Vice President for Research David Lee.

FACS researchers who will play critical roles in AFFOA include Gajanan Bhat, the Georgia Athletic Association Professor for Fibers and Textiles and head of the department of textiles, merchandising and interiors; Sergiy Minko, Georgia Power Professor of Fiber and Polymer Science, Fibers and Textiles and Suraj Sharma, associate professor in TMI; Jason Locklin, associate professor in the College of Engineering and department of chemistry, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, also is heavily involved.

Researchers from the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, who conduct research on biopolymers, also will contribute to research and development of new technical textiles.

Innovation Gateway, UGA’s commercialization and startup arm, will be instrumental in bringing new technologies to the market.

The AFFOA partnership builds on recent breakthroughs in fiber materials and manufacturing processes, with the mission of ensuring America remains at the leading edge of fiber science. It brings together Fortune 500 companies such as Nike and DuPont, universities, fiber and textiles manufacturing facilities, state workforce development programs and federal agencies.

FACS grad Tosha Hays’ company, Brrr!, also is a member of the consortium. Hays developed BrrrX, a cooling fabric that drops skin temperature an average of 2 to 4 degrees. She served as an executive at SPANX before co-launching Brrr! in 2014.

Hays was the only industry leader chosen to speak at the AFFOA announcement.

The effort is funded by a $75 million federal commitment and cost share matches from AFFOA partners totaling $317 million. The AFFOA partnership is projected to lead to the creation of 50,000 American jobs over the next 10 years.

“Thanks to the research happening at UGA and across the nation, the fabrics of the future will integrate sensors and other innovations to store energy, regulate temperature, monitor health, or change color, just to name a few examples,” UGA Provost Pamela Whitten said. “Defense applications include uniforms that detect threats like chemical and radioactive elements and fabrics that are exceptionally strong, light and flame resistant.