Swedish researcher develops textile traceability tech

A doctoral student at the University of Borås in Sweden has developed a blockchain and ‘cryptotag’ driven traceability system for textiles.

Tarun Kumar Agrawal of the Swedish School of Textiles at the university says the traceability system is based on a tag that contains tiny particles which can be printed directly onto a garment or other textile and randomly form a unique pattern that can be scanned using image reading systems.

The tag has been developed and tested at the lab scale and shows promising results on durability, for example washability, abrasion resistance and stretchability, according to the university.

“It is important that the tag is durable and that the particles, that form the unique pattern, consist and can be read off,” says Agrawal.

“This is also important when the garment is worn out and goes to recycling, in order to be able to deduce what material the textile consists of, for example, if it is pure or mixed material,” he adds.

The tag is linked to a blockchain-based traceability system that allow the tag to be tracked transparently through the supply chain - from production of raw material, to finished garment, and ultimately to the customer.

Agrawal has shown the system works at the lab scale, and is now looking for company partners to help scale it up and improve the algorithm that underpins the traceability framework.

“The textile supply chain is a complex network and a lot can happen in the process between the various production lines or stage,” says Agrawal.

“Consumers want to know where the garment they buy come from, what it is made of, and if it is ethically produced,” he adds. “At the same time, the producers want to show, that their products keep promised quality and are sustainable, and they want to be able to protect themselves from counterfeiting.”

QR codes and RFID chips are currently used as traceability tools in the clothing industry and other sectors, but these are easy to copy, notes Agrawal.

Other groups are also looking at using unique tags on textiles as an anticounterfeit and traceability feature, including US company Applied DNA Sciences which has developed DNA-based markers that can be applied to natural and synthetic textile fibres during production.

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