Time to change a diaper or car tire? Futuristic fabrics will let you know.

Innovation, Design, Materials

A new nonprofit, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), will seek to speed the arrival of next-generation fabrics that can store energy, control their own temperature, change color and behave like computer sensors. MIT professor Yoel Fink, who is leading the effort, envisions the creation of an entire new industry: textiles for the 21st century.

“It’s really giving — for the first time since the beginning of history — fabrics a new meaning,” Fink said. “This stuff is hanging on you, but what value are you deriving from it?”

Fink envisions clothing made of fabrics that track a person’s health and help medical professionals provide better care. One day Fink said we’ll select clothing not only for how it looks, but what it can do for us. Fabrics that store energy could provide climate control, helping a person endure extremely hot or cold conditions. Sheets on a bed could provide the perfect temperature and monitor our sleep cycles.

The nonprofit institute, which will be based in Cambridge, Mass., will involve universities, start-up incubators and companies around the country. It’s called the Advanced Functional Fibers of America Institute, and it has won a government competition for funding. Of the partnership’s $317 million in funding — coming from companies, investors, universities and some U.S. states — $75 million will come from the Defense Department. Ashton Carter, the secretary of defense, announced the news Friday morning at MIT.

Read more AFFOA News.