London: Fashion designers may soon have a new tool in their fight against pirated knockoff garments, thanks to an "invisible thread" developed by Swedish researchers.
The thread is developed using a technology similar to the one available for creating invisible patterns on banknotes.
Christian Muller, researcher in polymer technology at Chalmers University of Technology, has produced a thread with unique optical properties, which can be used to create invisible patterns in fabrics that are only visible under polarised light.
He has created a partially invisible thread made of polyethylene and a dye molecule that absorbs visible light.
The thread can be weaved into a pattern that is invisible to the naked eye, but which can be seen using a polarisation filter.
"Clothing manufacturers could start using the thread right away to put a signature pattern in their garments. The equipment needed to see the pattern is fairly simple, and is already in place at Swedish Customs, for example," he said.
The invisible thread can be created using several different dye molecules and several different synthetic fibre textiles such as nylon.
The dye molecule can also be bonded to natural fibres such as wool and silk. The technology can be used both for clothes and for different types of expensive speciality fabrics such as the textile used in vehicles and caravans.
The idea is for a brand to be associated with its own special combination of textile fibres and dye molecules. The thread is easy and inexpensive for a company to produce.
"It is very difficult for pirate manufacturers to copy the unique combination. They can obtain the equipment needed to read the pattern and ascertain the optical spectrum produced by a specific signature, but they cannot know which combination of components will produce the specific spectrum," said Muller.
The study was published in the Applied Physics Letters scientific journal.
Earlier, it was not known that a pattern can be created in textile that is part of the actual fabric, and that is only visible under polarised light.
According to experts in India, the new technology has potential to promote innovation in design sector in the country.
"It will help protect intellectual property rights of design in India," said Wajahat Hussain, assistant professor at State Institute of Design, Rohtak, Haryana.
"Many young designers fall in the trap of copying rather than coming up with innovative and original ideas, the technology may help curb that," Hussain said.