Nobel Prize, touch and textiles

Nobel Prize, touch and textiles

2021 Nobel Prize in Medicine reveals interesting connection with textiles, says Dr Seshadri Ramkumar, Professor, Texas Tech University, USA.



Nobel Prize in Medicine reveals interesting connection with textiles.


October 4, 2021, Stockholm-based The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute
announced the coveted prize for the discoveries on receptors related to touch
and temperature.

Dr David Julius of the University
of California, San Francisco, and Dr.
of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Scripps
Research, La Jolla, USA
have been jointly awarded the Nobel

to stimuli such as warmth or cold, friction and outside pressure play important
role in the consumer acceptance of textile and other products. The basic work
undertaken by the Nobel laureates will give us a better understanding on the
sensory perception at molecular level.

year’s recognition has a personal touch with this scribe as I am involved with
the understanding of the touch of fabrics and undertook doctoral dissertation
research on the hand of fabrics at the University of Leeds, U.K during



is presold based on its comfort and its next to skin friendliness and wool is
preferred for its thermal comfort, which depend on the neural responses based
on external stimuli such as smooth or rough, hot or cold, etc. In fact, the hot
chemical compound in capsicum chili played its part in this year’s Nobel.

scientists for decades have worked to better simulate the feel or touch of
fabrics. A major field known as “Hand,” evolved during the 1970s due to the
pioneering efforts of Japanese scientists Professor Sueo Kawabata, Professor
Niwa and Dr. Matsuo, that led to a standardized evaluation method.

research interest on the touch or feel of fabrics was kindled due to the
research efforts of Professor Venkatraman Subramaniam of Chennai-based A. C.
Tech., Anna University. In the  1980s and
90s, Professor Subramaniam, supported many doctoral research in India and the
field of hand evaluation blossomed there.

field of touch or haptics is multidisciplinary in nature involving tribology,
mechanics, materials science, neuroscience, etc. The work at Leeds during
1994-98 led to the development of artificial human finger to evaluate the feel
of fabrics using polymethyl siloxane to mimic human finger.

more emphasis on sustainable materials, how these materials appeal to consumers
matter and hence both basic and applied level research is needed in the textile
sector on the feel of fabrics.

year’s Nobel prize reiterates the importance of sensory science in textiles and
allied fields.


the Author:

Seshadri Ramkumar is the Professor, Nonwovens & Advanced Materials
Laboratory, at Texas Tech University, Texas, USA. He can be reached on email:

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