Textiles experts have designed shoelaces that light up and flash to improve safety at night for joggers and cyclists.
The laces – created by researchers in the Advanced Textiles Research Group (ATRG) in collaboration with leading science and engineering company QinetiQ – are also intended to become a fashion accessory.
They contain light emitting diodes (LEDs) the size of a flea and are switched on or off by the wearer tapping his shoes together.
As the LEDs are encapsulated in a waterproof resin, the laces are fully washable and wearable so they can be worn and used like any other pair of laces.
“These laces could become a very simply way for runners or cyclists to improve their visibility on dark winter nights,” said Professor Tilak Dias, who leads the ATRG in the School of Art & Design.
“Not only that, but our contacts in industry believe that they could become popular as a fashion accessory and worn for aesthetic purposes, as well as safety reasons.”
The laces are powered by a small, integrated battery in the shoe which contains the electronics linked to the on/off sensor.
The electronics in the shoe are also embedded in a silicone pod to protect them from the elements and to seamlessly incorporate them into the shoe’s design.
Until the LEDs are switched on, they look and behave just like normal shoelaces, as the electronics cannot be seen by the naked eye and can barely be felt.
Dr Theodore Hughes-Riley, of the ATRG, said: “This technology shows how smart textiles can improve safety for athletes, but also how it can be used as a fashion accessory.
“This technology could become very appealing to the market soon, as our research into optimising the smart textiles manufacturing process will enable industry to take a huge step forward to producing these kinds of electronic textiles for the consumer.”
Roya Ashayer-Soltani, a materials scientist and textiles expert at QinetiQ, said: “The current laces have real potential to make a great difference to the healthcare, athletic, leisure, defence and security industries. The potential future integration of other technologies onto the lace itself really opens up a world of possibilities for large impact.”