Scientists in the UK are claiming a significant advance in the breathability of textiles – by imitating the properties of a pine cone.

MMT Textiles claims that Inotek fibres are a world first – improving the permeability of yarns and textiles as moisture builds up around them, thereby alleviating the feeling of dampness.

The new fibres will, they say, benefit manufacturers of sports clothing, base layers, underwear, socks and bedding fabrics, with the company already signing development agreements with a number of brands and manufacturers, including performance synthetics specialist Burlington Worldwide.

Inotek has also been tested and validated by the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre in Massachusetts.

MMT co-founder Dr Veronika Kapsali, who developed the fibres, explained that while conventional smart textiles swell as they absorb moisture, Inotek fibres do the opposite, imitating a pine cone by opening up microscopic air pockets in the textile and improving its breathability.

The fibres then revert to their original state in dry conditions, restoring the textile’s insulation properties.

“The textile and fashion world is always looking for innovation and there is growing interest in the application of biological processes to make clothes more comfortable and practical,” said Dr Kapsali.

“Ventilation is one area where we can learn much from successful adaptations in nature.

“Inotek fibre technology mimics the systems found in pine cones by responding to levels of humidity in the micro-climate.”