Tag Archives: smart textiles

Graphene and smart textiles

Here’s one of the more recent efforts to create fibres that are electronic and capable of being woven into a smart textile. (Details about a previous effort can be found at the end of this post.) Now for this one, from a Dec. 3, 2018 news item on ScienceDaily,

The quest to create affordable, durable and mass-produced ‘smart textiles’ has been given fresh impetus through the use of the wonder material Graphene.

An international team of scientists, led by Professor Monica Craciun from the University of Exeter Engineering department, has pioneered a new technique to create fully electronic fibres that can be incorporated into the production of everyday clothing.

A Dec. 3, 2018 University of Exeter press release (also on EurekAlert), provides more detail about the problems associated with wearable electronics and the solution being offered (Note: A link has been removed),

Currently, wearable electronics are achieved by essentially gluing devices to fabrics, which can mean they are too rigid and susceptible to malfunctioning.

The new research instead integrates the electronic devices into the fabric of the material, by coating electronic fibres with light-weight, durable components that will allow images to be shown directly on the fabric.

The research team believe that the discovery could revolutionise the creation of wearable electronic devices for use in a range of every day applications, as well as health monitoring, such as heart rates and blood pressure, and medical diagnostics.

The international collaborative research, which includes experts from the Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, the Universities of Aveiro and Lisbon in Portugal, and CenTexBel in Belgium, is published in the scientific journal Flexible Electronics.

Professor Craciun, co-author of the research said: “For truly wearable electronic devices to be achieved, it is vital that the components are able to be incorporated within the material, and not simply added to it.

Dr Elias Torres Alonso, Research Scientist at Graphenea and former PhD student in Professor Craciun’s team at Exeter added “This new research opens up the gateway for smart textiles to play a pivotal role in so many fields in the not-too-distant future.  By weaving the graphene fibres into the fabric, we have created a new technique to all the full integration of electronics into textiles. The only limits from now are really within our own imagination.”

At just one atom thick, graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity. It is very flexible and is one of the strongest known materials. The race has been on for scientists and engineers to adapt graphene for the use in wearable electronic devices in recent years.

This new research used existing polypropylene fibres – typically used in a host of commercial applications in the textile industry – to attach the new, graphene-based electronic fibres to create touch-sensor and light-emitting devices.

The new technique means that the fabrics can incorporate truly wearable displays without the need for electrodes, wires of additional materials.

Professor Saverio Russo, co-author and from the University of Exeter Physics department, added: “The incorporation of electronic devices on fabrics is something that scientists have tried to produce for a number of years, and is a truly game-changing advancement for modern technology.”

Dr Ana Neves, co-author and also from Exeter’s Engineering department added “The key to this new technique is that the textile fibres are flexible, comfortable and light, while being durable enough to cope with the demands of modern life.”

In 2015, an international team of scientists, including Professor Craciun, Professor Russo and Dr Ana Neves from the University of Exeter, have pioneered a new technique to embed transparent, flexible graphene electrodes into fibres commonly associated with the textile industry.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Graphene electronic fibres with touch-sensing and light-emitting functionalities for smart textiles by Elias Torres Alonso, Daniela P. Rodrigues, Mukond Khetani, Dong-Wook Shin, Adolfo De Sanctis, Hugo Joulie, Isabel de Schrijver, Anna Baldycheva, Helena Alves, Ana I. S. Neves, Saverio Russo & Monica F. Craciun. Flexible Electronicsvolume 2, Article number: 25 (2018) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41528-018-0040-2 Published 25 September 2018

This paper is open access.

I have an earlier post about an effort to weave electronics into textiles for soldiers, from an April 5, 2012 posting,

I gather that today’s soldier (aka, warfighter)  is carrying as many batteries as weapons. Apparently, the average soldier carries a couple of kilos worth of batteries and cables to keep their various pieces of equipment operational. The UK’s Centre for Defence Enterprise (part of the Ministry of Defence) has announced that this situation is about to change as a consequence of a recently funded research project with a company called Intelligent Textiles. From Bob Yirka’s April 3, 2012 news item for physorg.com,

To get rid of the cables, a company called Intelligent Textiles has come up with a type of yarn that can conduct electricity, which can be woven directly into the fabric of the uniform. And because they allow the uniform itself to become one large conductive unit, the need for multiple batteries can be eliminated as well.

I dug down to find more information about this UK initiative and the Intelligent Textiles company but the trail seems to end in 2015. Still, I did find a Canadian connection (for those who don’t know I’m a Canuck) and more about Intelligent Textile’s work with the British military in this Sept. 21, 2015 article by Barry Collins for alphr.com (Note: Links have been removed),

A two-person firm operating from a small workshop in Staines-upon-Thames, Intelligent Textiles has recently landed a multimillion-pound deal with the US Department of Defense, and is working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to bring its potentially life-saving technology to British soldiers. Not bad for a company that only a few years ago was selling novelty cushions.

Intelligent Textiles was born in 2002, almost by accident. Asha Peta Thompson, an arts student at Central Saint Martins, had been using textiles to teach children with special needs. That work led to a research grant from Brunel University, where she was part of a team tasked with creating a “talking jacket” for the disabled. The garment was designed to help cerebral palsy sufferers to communicate, by pressing a button on the jacket to say “my name is Peter”, for example, instead of having a Stephen Hawking-like communicator in front of them.

Another member of that Brunel team was engineering lecturer Dr Stan Swallow, who was providing the electronics expertise for the project. Pretty soon, the pair realised the prototype waistcoat they were working on wasn’t going to work: it was cumbersome, stuffed with wires, and difficult to manufacture. “That’s when we had the idea that we could weave tiny mechanical switches into the surface of the fabric,” said Thompson.

The conductive weave had several advantages over packing electronics into garments. “It reduces the amount of cables,” said Thompson. “It can be worn and it’s also washable, so it’s more durable. It doesn’t break; it can be worn next to the skin; it’s soft. It has all the qualities of a piece of fabric, so it’s a way of repackaging the electronics in a way that’s more user-friendly and more comfortable.” The key to Intelligent Textiles’ product isn’t so much the nature of the raw materials used, but the way they’re woven together. “All our patents are in how we weave the fabric,” Thompson explained. “We weave two conductive yarns to make a tiny mechanical switch that is perfectly separated or perfectly connected. We can weave an electronic circuit board into the fabric itself.”

Intelligent Textiles’ big break into the military market came when they met a British textiles firm that was supplying camouflage gear to the Canadian armed forces. [emphasis mine] The firm was attending an exhibition in Canada and invited the Intelligent Textiles duo to join them. “We showed a heated glove and an iPod controller,” said Thompson. “The Canadians said ‘that’s really fantastic, but all we need is power. Do you think you could weave a piece of fabric that distributes power?’ We said, ‘we’re already doing it’.”Before long it wasn’t only power that the Canadians wanted transmitted through the fabric, but data.

“The problem a soldier faces at the moment is that he’s carrying 60 AA batteries [to power all the equipment he carries],” said Thompson. “He doesn’t know what state of charge those batteries are at, and they’re incredibly heavy. He also has wires and cables running around the system. He has snag hazards – when he’s going into a firefight, he can get caught on door handles and branches, so cables are a real no-no.”

The Canadians invited the pair to speak at a NATO conference, where they were approached by military brass with more familiar accents. “It was there that we were spotted by the British MoD, who said ‘wow, this is a British technology but you’re being funded by Canada’,” said Thompson. That led to £235,000 of funding from the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) – the money they needed to develop a fabric wiring system that runs all the way through the soldier’s vest, helmet and backpack.

There are more details about the 2015 state of affairs, textiles-wise, in a March 11, 2015 article by Richard Trenholm for CNET.com (Note: A link has been removed),

Speaking at the Wearable Technology Show here, Swallow describes IT [Intelligent Textiles]L as a textile company that “pretends to be a military company…it’s funny how you slip into these domains.”

One domain where this high-tech fabric has seen frontline action is in the Canadian military’s IAV Stryker armoured personnel carrier. ITL developed a full QWERTY keyboard in a single piece of fabric for use in the Stryker, replacing a traditional hardware keyboard that involved 100 components. Multiple components allow for repair, but ITL knits in redundancy so the fabric can “degrade gracefully”. The keyboard works the same as the traditional hardware, with the bonus that it’s less likely to fall on a soldier’s head, and with just one glaring downside: troops can no longer use it as a step for getting in and out of the vehicle.

An armoured car with knitted controls is one thing, but where the technology comes into its own is when used about the person. ITL has worked on vests like the JTAC, a system “for the guys who call down airstrikes” and need “extra computing oomph.” Then there’s SWIPES, a part of the US military’s Nett Warrior system — which uses a chest-mounted Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone — and British military company BAE’s Broadsword system.

ITL is currently working on Spirit, a “truly wearable system” for the US Army and United States Marine Corps. It’s designed to be modular, scalable, intuitive and invisible.

While this isn’t an ITL product, this video about Broadsword technology from BAE does give you some idea of what wearable technology for soldiers is like,

baesystemsinc

Uploaded on Jul 8, 2014

Broadsword™ delivers groundbreaking technology to the 21st Century warfighter through interconnecting components that inductively transfer power and data via The Spine™, a revolutionary e-textile that can be inserted into any garment. This next-generation soldier system offers enhanced situational awareness when used with the BAE Systems’ Q-Warrior® see-through display.

If anyone should have the latest news about Intelligent Textile’s efforts, please do share in the comments section.

I do have one other posting about textiles and the military, which is dated May 9, 2012, but while it does reference US efforts it is not directly related to weaving electronics into solder’s (warfighter’s) gear.

You can find CenTexBel (Belgian Textile Rsearch Centre) here and Graphenea here. Both are mentioned in the University of Exeter press release.

Electrode-filled elastic fiber for wearable electronics and robots

This work comes out of Switzerland. A May 25, 2018 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) press release (also on EurekAlert) announces their fibers,

EPFL scientists have found a fast and simple way to make super-elastic, multi-material, high-performance fibers. Their fibers have already been used as sensors on robotic fingers and in clothing. This breakthrough method opens the door to new kinds of smart textiles and medical implants.

It’s a whole new way of thinking about sensors. The tiny fibers developed at EPFL are made of elastomer and can incorporate materials like electrodes and nanocomposite polymers. The fibers can detect even the slightest pressure and strain and can withstand deformation of close to 500% before recovering their initial shape. All that makes them perfect for applications in smart clothing and prostheses, and for creating artificial nerves for robots.

The fibers were developed at EPFL’s Laboratory of Photonic Materials and Fiber Devices (FIMAP), headed by Fabien Sorin at the School of Engineering. The scientists came up with a fast and easy method for embedding different kinds of microstructures in super-elastic fibers. For instance, by adding electrodes at strategic locations, they turned the fibers into ultra-sensitive sensors. What’s more, their method can be used to produce hundreds of meters of fiber in a short amount of time. Their research has just been published in Advanced Materials.

Heat, then stretch
To make their fibers, the scientists used a thermal drawing process, which is the standard process for optical-fiber manufacturing. They started by creating a macroscopic preform with the various fiber components arranged in a carefully designed 3D pattern. They then heated the preform and stretched it out, like melted plastic, to make fibers of a few hundreds microns in diameter. And while this process stretched out the pattern of components lengthwise, it also contracted it crosswise, meaning the components’ relative positions stayed the same. The end result was a set of fibers with an extremely complicated microarchitecture and advanced properties.

Until now, thermal drawing could be used to make only rigid fibers. But Sorin and his team used it to make elastic fibers. With the help of a new criterion for selecting materials, they were able to identify some thermoplastic elastomers that have a high viscosity when heated. After the fibers are drawn, they can be stretched and deformed but they always return to their original shape.

Rigid materials like nanocomposite polymers, metals and thermoplastics can be introduced into the fibers, as well as liquid metals that can be easily deformed. “For instance, we can add three strings of electrodes at the top of the fibers and one at the bottom. Different electrodes will come into contact depending on how the pressure is applied to the fibers. This will cause the electrodes to transmit a signal, which can then be read to determine exactly what type of stress the fiber is exposed to – such as compression or shear stress, for example,” says Sorin.

Artificial nerves for robots

Working in association with Professor Dr. Oliver Brock (Robotics and Biology Laboratory, Technical University of Berlin), the scientists integrated their fibers into robotic fingers as artificial nerves. Whenever the fingers touch something, electrodes in the fibers transmit information about the robot’s tactile interaction with its environment. The research team also tested adding their fibers to large-mesh clothing to detect compression and stretching. “Our technology could be used to develop a touch keyboard that’s integrated directly into clothing, for instance” says Sorin.

The researchers see many other potential applications. Especially since the thermal drawing process can be easily tweaked for large-scale production. This is a real plus for the manufacturing sector. The textile sector has already expressed interest in the new technology, and patents have been filed.

There’s a video of the lead researcher discussing the work as he offers some visual aids,

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Superelastic Multimaterial Electronic and Photonic Fibers and Devices via Thermal Drawing by Yunpeng Qu, Tung Nguyen‐Dang, Alexis Gérald Page, Wei Yan, Tapajyoti Das Gupta, Gelu Marius Rotaru, René M. Rossi, Valentine Dominique Favrod, Nicola Bartolomei, Fabien Sorin. Advanced Materials First published: 25 May 2018 https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201707251

This paper is behind a paywall.

Cientifica’s “Wearables, Smart Textiles and Nanotechnology Applications Technologies and Markets” report

It’s been a long time since I’ve received notice of a report from Cientifica Research and I’m glad to see another one. This is titled, Wearables, Smart Textiles and Nanotechnologies and Markets, and has just been published according to the May 26,  2016 Cientifica announcement received by email.

Here’s more from the report’s order page on the Cientifica site,

Wearables, Smart Textiles and Nanotechnology: Applications, Technologies and Markets

Price GBP 1995 / USD 2995

The past few years have seen the introduction of a number of wearable technologies, from fitness trackers to “smart watches” but with the increasing use of smart textiles wearables are set to become ‘disappearables’ as the devices merge with textiles.

The textile industry will experience a growing demand for high-tech materials driven largely by both technical textiles and the increasing integration of smart textiles to create wearable devices based on sensors.  This will enable the transition of the wearable market away from one dominated by discrete hardware based on MEMS accelerometers and smartphones. Unlike today’s ‘wearables’ tomorrow’s devices will be fully integrated into the the garment through the use of conductive fibres, multilayer 3D printed structures and two dimensional materials such as graphene.

Largely driven by the use of nanotechnologies, this sector will be one of the largest end users of nano- and two dimensional materials such as graphene, with wearable devices accounting for over half the demand by 2022. Products utilizing two dimensional materials such as graphene inks will be integral to the growth of wearables, representing a multi-billion dollar opportunity by 2022.

This represents significant opportunities for both existing smart textiles companies and new entrants to create and grow niche markets in sectors currently dominated by hardware manufacturers such Apple and Samsung.

The market for wearables using smart textiles is forecast to grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 132% between 2016 and 2022 representing a $70 billion market. Largely driven by the use of nanotechnologies, this sector has the potential to be one of the largest end users of nano and two dimensional materials such as graphene, with wearable devices accounting for over half the demand by 2022.

“Wearables, Smart Textiles and Nanotechnologies: Applications, Technologies and Markets” looks at the technologies involved from antibacterial silver nanoparticles to electrospun graphene fibers, the companies applying them, and the impact on sectors including wearables, apparel, home, military, technical, and medical textiles.

This report is based on an extensive research study of the smart textile market backed with over a decade of experience in identifying, predicting and sizing markets for nanotechnologies and smart textiles. Detailed market figures are given from 2016-2022, along with an analysis of the key opportunities, and illustrated with 120 figures and 15 tables.

I always love to view the table of contents (from the report’s order page),

Table of Contents      

Executive Summary  

Why Wearable Technologies Need More than Silicon + Software

The Solution Is in Your Closet

The Shift To Higher Value Textiles

Nanomaterials Add Functionality and Value

Introduction   

Objectives of the Report

World Textiles and Clothing

Overview of Nanotechnology Applications in the EU Textile Industry

Overview of Nanotechnology Applications in the US Textile Industry

Overview of Nanotechnology Applications in the Chinese Textile Industry

Overview of Nanotechnology Applications in the Indian Textile Industry

Overview of Nanotechnology Applications in the Japanese Textile Industry

Overview of Nanotechnology Applications in the Korean Textile Industry

Textiles in the Rest of the World

Macro and Micro Value Chain of Textiles Industry

Common Textiles Industry Classifications

End Markets and Value Chain Actors

Why Textiles Adopt Nanotechnologies        

Nanotechnology in Textiles

Examples of Nanotechnology in Textiles

Nanotechnology in Some Textile-related Categories

Technical & Smart Textiles

Multifunctional Textiles

High Performance Textiles

Smart/Intelligent Textiles

Nanotechnology Hype

Current Applications of Nanotechnology in Textile Production       

Nanotechnology in Fibers and Yarns

Nano-Structured Composite Fibers

Nanotechnology in Textile Finishing, Dyeing and Coating

Nanotechnology In Textile Printing

Green Technology—Nanotechnology In Textile Production Energy Saving

Electronic Textiles and Wearables   

Nanotechnology in Electronic Textiles

Concept

Markets and Impacts

Conductive Materials

Carbon Nanotube Composite Conductive Fibers

Carbon Nanotube Yarns

Nano-Treatment for Conductive Fiber/Sensors

Textile-Based Wearable Electronics

Conductive Coatings On Fibers For Electronic Textiles

Stretchable  Electronics

Memory-Storing Fiber

Transistor Cotton for Smart Clothing

Embedding Transparent, Flexible Graphene Electrodes Into Fibers

Organic Electronic Fibers

‘Temperature Regulating Smart Fabric’

Digital System Built Directly on a Fiber

Sensors    

Shirt Button Sensors

An integrated textile heart monitoring solution

OmSignal’s  Smart Bra

Printed sensors to track movement

Textile Gas Sensors

Smart Seats To Curtail Fatigued Driving.

Wireless Brain and Heart Monitors

Chain Mail Fabric for Smart Textiles

Graphene-Based Woven Fabric

Anti-Counterfeiting and Drug Delivery Nanofiber

Batteries and Energy Storage

Flexible Batteries

Cable Batteries

Flexible Supercapacitors

Energy Harvesting Textiles

Light Emitting Textiles  

Data Transmission 

Future and Challenges of Electronic Textiles and Wearables

Market Forecast

Smart Textiles, Nanotechnology and Apparel          

Nano-Antibacterial Clothing Textiles

Nanosilver Safety Concerns

UV/Sun/Radiation Protective

Hassle-free Clothing: Stain/Oil/Water Repellence, Anti-Static, Anti-Wrinkle

Anti-Fade

Comfort Issues: Perspiration Control, Moisture Management

Creative Appearance and Scent for High Street Fashions

Nanobarcodes for Clothing Combats Counterfeiting

High Strength, Abrasion-Resistant Fabric Using Carbon Nanotube

Nanotechnology For Home Laundry

Current Adopters of Nanotechnology in Clothing/Apparel Textiles

Products and Markets

Market Forecast

Nanotechnology in Home Textiles   

Summary of Nanotechnology Applications in Home Textiles

Current Applications of Nanotechnology in Home Textiles

Current Adopters of Nanotechnology in Home Textiles

Products and Markets

Costs and Benefits

Market Forecast

Nanotechnology Applications in Military/Defence Textiles

Summary of Nanotechnology Applications in Military/Defence Textiles

Military Textiles

Current Applications of Nanotechnology in Military/Defence Textiles

Current Adopters of Nanotechnology in Military/Defence Textiles

Light Weight, Multifunctional Nanostructured Fibers and Materials

Costs and Benefits

Market Forecast

Nanotechnology Applications in Medical Textiles   

Summary of Nanotechnology Applications in Medical Textiles

Current Applications of Nanotechnology in Medical Textiles

Current Adopters of Nanotechnology in Medical Textiles

Products and Markets

Costs and Benefits

Market Forecast

Nanotechnology Applications in Sports/Outdoor Textiles   

Summary of Nanotechnology Applications in Sports/Outdoor Textiles

Current Applications of Nanotechnology in Sports/Outdoor Textiles

Current Adopters of Nanotechnology in Sports/Outdoor Textiles

Products and Markets

Costs and Benefits

Market Forecast

Nanotechnology Applications in Technical Textiles 

Summary of Nanotechnology Applications in Technical and smart textiles

Current Applications of Nanotechnology in Technical Textiles

Current Adopters of Nanotechnology in Technical and smart textiles

Products and Markets

Costs and Benefits

Market Forecast

APPENDIX I: Companies/Research Institutes Applying Nanotechnologies to the Textile Industry

Companies Working on Nanofiber Applications

Companies Working on Nanofabric Applications

Companies Working on Nano Finishing, Coating, Dyeing and Printing Applications

Companies Working on Green Nanotechnology In Textile Production Energy Saving Applications

Companies Working on E-textile Applications

Companies Working on Nano Applications in Clothing/Apparel Textiles

Companies Working on Nano Applications in Home Textiles

Companies Working on Nano Applications in Sports/Outdoor Textile

Companies Working on Nano Applications in Military/Defence Textiles

Companies Working on Nano Applications in Technical Textiles

APPENDIX II: Selected Company Profiles     

APPENDIX III: Companies Mentioned in This Report 

The report’s order page has a form you can fill out to get more information but, as far as I can tell, there is no purchase button or link to a shopping cart for purchase.

Afterthought

Recently, there was an email in my inbox touting a Canadian-based company’s underclothing made with the founder’s Sweat-Secret fabric technology (I have not been able to find any details about the technology). As this has some of the qualities being claimed for the nanotechnology-enabled textiles described in the report and the name for the company amuses me, Noody Patooty, I’m including it in this posting (from the homepage),

Organic Bamboo Fabric
The soft, breathable and thermoregulation benefits of organic bamboo fabric keep you comfortable throughout all your busy days.

Sweat-Secret™ Technology
The high performance fabric in the underarm wicks day-to-day sweat and moisture from the body preventing sweat and odour stains.

Made in Canada
From fabric to finished garment our entire collection is made in Canada using sustainable and ethical manufacturing processes.

This is not an endorsement of the Noody Patooty undershirts. I’ve never tried one.

As for the report, Tim Harper who founded Cientifica Research has in my experience always been knowledgeable and well-informed (although I don’t always agree with him). Presumably, he’s still with the company but I’m not entirely certain.

ATTACH for smart clothes and personalized heating and cooling

If this research into clothing that can heat or warm you as needed sounds familiar, it is. A team out of Stanford University (US) reported on research they conducted (pun noted) using special cloth coated with metallic nanowires to achieve personalized heating and cooling (my Jan. 9, 2015 post).

Now there is a second US team, also based in southern California, working on personalized heating and cooling. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have received a $2.6M grant to pursue this goal, from a June 1, 2015 news item on Nanowerk,

Imagine a fabric that will keep your body at a comfortable temperature—regardless of how hot or cold it actually is. That’s the goal of an engineering project at the University of California, San Diego, funded with a $2.6M grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). Wearing this smart fabric could potentially reduce heating and air conditioning bills for buildings and homes.

The project, named ATTACH (Adaptive Textiles Technology with Active Cooling and Heating), is led by Joseph Wang, distinguished professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego.

By regulating the temperature around an individual person, rather than a large room, the smart fabric could potentially cut the energy use of buildings and homes by at least 15 percent, Wang noted.

“In cases where there are only one or two people in a large room, it’s not cost-effective to heat or cool the entire room,” said Wang. “If you can do it locally, like you can in a car by heating just the car seat instead of the entire car, then you can save a lot of energy.”

A June 1, 2015 UCSD news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the team’s hopes and dreams for the technology and provides some biographical information (Note: Some links have been removed),

The smart fabric will be designed to regulate the temperature of the wearer’s skin–keeping it at 93° F–by adapting to temperature changes in the room. When the room gets cooler, the fabric will become thicker. When the room gets hotter, the fabric will become thinner. To accomplish this feat, the researchers will insert polymers that expand in the cold and shrink in the heat inside the smart fabric.

“Regardless if the surrounding temperature increases or decreases, the user will still feel the same without having to adjust the thermostat,” said Wang.

“93° F is the average comfortable skin temperature for most people,” added Renkun Chen, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UC San Diego, and one of the collaborators on this project.

Chen’s contribution to ATTACH is to develop supplemental heating and cooling devices, called thermoelectrics, that are printable and will be incorporated into specific spots of the smart fabric. The thermoelectrics will regulate the temperature on “hot spots”–such as areas on the back and underneath the feet–that tend to get hotter than other parts of the body when a person is active.

“This is like a personalized air-conditioner and heater,” said Chen.

Saving energy

“With the smart fabric, you won’t need to heat the room as much in the winter, and you won’t need to cool the room down as much in the summer. That means less energy is consumed. Plus, you will still feel comfortable within a wider temperature range,” said Chen.

The researchers are also designing the smart fabric to power itself. The fabric will include rechargeable batteries, which will power the thermoelectrics, as well as biofuel cells that can harvest electrical power from human sweat. Plus, all of these parts–batteries, thermoelectrics and biofuel cells–will be printed using the technology developed in Wang’s lab to make printable wearable devices. These parts will also be thin, stretchable and flexible to ensure that the smart fabric is not bulky or heavy.

“We are aiming to make the smart clothing look and feel as much like the clothes that people regularly wear. It will be washable, stretchable, bendable and lightweight. We also hope to make it look attractive and fashionable to wear,” said Wang.

In terms of price, the team has not yet concluded how much the smart clothing will cost. This will depend on the scale of production, but the printing technology in Wang’s lab will offer a low-cost method to produce the parts. Keeping the costs down is a major goal, the researchers said.

The research team

Professor Joseph Wang, Department of NanoEngineering

Wang, the lead principal investigator of ATTACH, has pioneered the development of wearable printable devices, such as electrochemical sensors and temporary tattoo-based biofuel cells. He is the chair of the nanoengineering department and the director for the Center for Wearable Sensors at UC San Diego. His extensive expertise in printable, stretchable and wearable devices will be used here to make the proposed flexible biofuel cells, batteries and thermoelectrics.

Assistant Professor Renkun Chen, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Chen specializes in heat transfer and thermoelectrics. His research group works on physics, materials and devices related to thermal energy transport, conversion and management. His specialty in these areas will be used to develop the thermal models and the thermoelectric devices.

Associate Professor Shirley Meng, Department of NanoEngineering

Meng’s research focuses on energy storage and conversion, particularly on battery cell design and testing. At UC San Diego, she established the Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion and is the inaugural director for the Sustainable Power and Energy Center. Meng will develop the rechargeable batteries and will work on power integration throughout the smart fabric system.

Professor Sungho Jin, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Jin specializes in functional materials for applications in nanotechnology, magnetism, energy and biomedicine. He will design the self-responsive polymers that change in thickness based on changes in the surrounding temperature.

Dr. Joshua Windmiller, CEO of Electrozyme LLC

Windmiller, former Ph.D. student and postdoc in Wang’s nanoengineering lab, is an expert in printed biosensors, bioelectronics and biofuel cells. He co-founded Electrozyme LLC, a startup devoted to the development of novel biosensors for application in the personal wellness and healthcare domains. Electrozyme will serve as the industrial partner for ATTACH and will lead the efforts to test the smart fabric prototype and bring the technology into the market.

You can find out more about Electrozyme here.

Fully textile-embedded transparent and flexible technology?

There are a lot of research teams jockeying for position in the transparent, flexible electrodes stakes (for anyone unfamiliar with the slang, I’m comparing the competition between various research teams to a horse race). A May 11, 2015 news item on Nanowerk describes work from an international collaboration at the University of Exeter (UK), Note: A link has been removed,

An international team of scientists, including Professor Monica Craciun from the University of Exeter, have pioneered a new technique to embed transparent, flexible graphene electrodes into fibres commonly associated with the textile industry.

The discovery could revolutionise the creation of wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players, which are lightweight, durable and easily transportable.

The international collaborative research, which includes experts from the Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, the Institute for Systems Engineering and Computers, Microsystems and Nanotechnology (INESC-MN) in Lisbon, the Universities of Lisbon and Aveiro in Portugal and the Belgian Textile Research Centre (CenTexBel), is published in the leading scientific journal Scientific Reports (“Transparent conductive graphene textile fibers”).

A May 11, 2015 University of Exeter press release (also on EurekAlert*), which originated the news item,  describes the current situation regarding transparent and flexible electrodes in textiles and how the research at Exeter improves the situation,

Professor Craciun, co-author of the research said: “This is a pivotal point in the future of wearable electronic devices. The potential has been there for a number of years, and transparent and flexible electrodes are already widely used in plastics and glass, for example. But this is the first example of a textile electrode being truly embedded in a yarn. The possibilities for its use are endless, including textile GPS systems, to biomedical monitoring, personal security or even communication tools for those who are sensory impaired.  The only limits are really within our own imagination.”

At just one atom thick, graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity. It is very flexible and is one of the strongest known materials. The race has been on for scientists and engineers to adapt graphene for the use in wearable electronic devices in recent years.

This new research has identified that ‘monolayer graphene’, which has exceptional electrical, mechanical and optical properties, make it a highly attractive proposition as a transparent electrode for applications in wearable electronics. In this work graphene was created by a growth method called chemical vapour deposition (CVD) onto copper foil, using a state-of-the-art nanoCVD system recently developed by Moorfield.

The collaborative team established a technique to transfer graphene from the copper foils to a polypropylene fibre already commonly used in the textile industry.

Dr Helena Alves who led the research team from INESC-MN and the University of Aveiro said: “The concept of wearable technology is emerging, but so far having fully textile-embedded transparent and flexible technology is currently non-existing. Therefore, the development of processes and engineering for the integration of graphene in textiles would give rise to a new universe of commercial applications. “

Dr Ana Neves, Associate Research Fellow in Prof Craciun’s team from Exeter’s Engineering Department and former postdoctoral researcher at INESC added: “We are surrounded by fabrics, the carpet floors in our homes or offices, the seats in our cars, and obviously all our garments and clothing accessories. The incorporation of electronic devices on fabrics would certainly be a game-changer in modern technology.

“All electronic devices need wiring, so the first issue to be address in this strategy is the development of conducting textile fibres while keeping the same aspect, comfort and lightness. The methodology that we have developed to prepare transparent and conductive textile fibres by coating them with graphene will now open way to the integration of electronic devices on these textile fibres.”

Dr Isabel De Schrijver,an expert of smart textiles from CenTexBel said: “Successful manufacturing of wearable electronics has the potential for a disruptive technology with a wide array of potential new applications. We are very excited about the potential of this breakthrough and look forward to seeing where it can take the electronics industry in the future.”

Professor Saverio Russo, co-author and also from the University of Exeter, added: “This breakthrough will also nurture the birth of novel and transformative research directions benefitting a wide range of sectors ranging from defence to health care. “

In 2012 Professor Craciun and Professor Russo, from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Graphene Science, discovered GraphExeter – sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two graphene layers which makes a whole new system that is the best known transparent material able to conduct electricity.  The same team recently discovered that GraphExeter is also more stable than many transparent conductors commonly used by, for example, the display industry.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Electron transport of WS2 transistors in a hexagonal boron nitride dielectric environment by Freddie Withers, Thomas Hardisty Bointon, David Christopher Hudson, Monica Felicia Craciun, & Saverio Russo. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 4967 doi:10.1038/srep04967 Published 15 May 2014

Did they wait a year to announce the research or is this a second-go-round? In any event, it is an open access paper.

* Added EurekAlert link 1120 hours PDT on May 12, 2015.

Is it smart fabrics or smart textiles? (Smart Fabrics + Wearable Technology 2013)

Cath Rogan is  Principal of Smart Garment People, and the author of a Nov. 27, 2013 article profiling the recently held (Oct. 29 – 31, 2013) Smart Fabrics + Wearable Technology Europe 2013 conference. Before excerpting any material from the main body of her conference review for Innovation in Textiles, here’s the description of her company and her work (from the end of the article),

According to a boutique consulting business that helps customers make clothing “smart” and technology wearable.  Cath has spent over two decades developing technical fabrics and clothing for some of the world’s leading outdoor and sports brands, including Karrimor, Berghaus, Barbour, Lowe Alpine, Henri Lloyd, TNF, Patagonia, Nike, Puma and Adidas. More recently, her work has taken her into specialist protective clothing for chemical, biological and ballistic protection, along with wearable health and fitness monitoring.

This image of a bio-mimetic textile is one of several image accompanying the article,

Daan Roosegarde's Intimacy Garment [downloaded from: http://www.innovationintextiles.com/smart-textiles-nanotechnology/smart-fabrics-europe-2013-conference-review/]

Dean Roosegarde’s Intimacy Garment [downloaded from: http://www.innovationintextiles.com/smart-textiles-nanotechnology/smart-fabrics-europe-2013-conference-review/]

Rogan offers a comprehensive review and I’ve chose to highlight only two items from it,. From the article,

Daan Roosegarde covered several different chromic materials in the course of his outstanding opening keynote presentation.  As an artist and architect, the diversity of his projects was striking, but their impact, both visually and in the way they connect people to places, and objects was much more so.  His “impact” dress, which transitions from opaque to transparent and can be triggered by voice recognition inspired another novel application which raised an appreciative smile from the audience; the “Yes But…” chair delivers an electric shock to the seat of the person who utters every designers’ least favourite phrase.  …

Rogan also comments on ‘lighted textiles’ at the conference,

The conference had a strong bias towards “lighted” textiles with no fewer than seven presentations covering these applications.  Conversely, and in strong contrast to previous conferences, there was almost no mention of textile based wearable physiological monitoring (other than in Prof. Daniel Berckman’s fascinating look at the algorithms behind such devices at M3-BIORES).  These two sectors probably account for most of the development and commercialization efforts in e-textiles to date, but with the recent surge in demand for monitoring products fuelled by a growing number of “hardware” devices such as the Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Nike Fuelband etc, the omission of wearable monitoring was surprising.

She goes on to mention Moritz Waldemeyer, a British/German designer and engineer (there’s more in the Wikipedia essay) who I heard speak at the 2009 International Symposium on Electronic Arts (SEA) in Belfast, Northern Ireland (as per my Sept. 9, 2009 posting). He does some really stunning work as can be seen on his website, I particularly like this work for the Olympics (I believe these were for the 2010 London Olympics),

Dancers during the Olympic closing ceremony [Downloaded from: http://www.waldemeyer.com/olympic-ceremonies]

Dancers during the Olympic closing ceremony [Downloaded from: http://www.waldemeyer.com/olympic-ceremonies]

Rogan briefly describes a number of different themes including bio-mimetic inspired responsive textiles, shape shifting devices, flexible batteries, DIY (do-it-yourself) and hacking all of which are illustrated with more images.

For anyone who’s interested, there’s an upcoming Smart Fabrics + Wearable Technology 2014 conference in San Francisco (California, US) from April 23 – 25,2014. (I believe the conference is run 2x per year with a North American version in the Spring and a European version in the Fall.)

‘Silverized’ clothing and wearable electronics

A July 30, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily features a technique for printing silver directly onto fibres,

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Measurement Institute, have developed a way to print silver directly onto fibres. This new technique could make integrating electronics into all types of clothing simple and practical. This has many potential applications in sports, health, medicine, consumer electronics and fashion.

Most current plans for wearable electronics require weaving conductive materials into fabrics, which offer limited flexibility and can only be achieved when integrated into the design of the clothing from the start. [emphasis mine] NPL’s technique could allow lightweight circuits to be printed directly onto complete garments.

The July 30, 2013 National Physical Laboratory news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides a little more detail,

Silver coated fibres created using this technique are flexible and stretchable, meaning circuits can be easily printed onto many different types of fabric, including wool which is knitted in tight loops.

The technique involves chemically bonding a nano‐silver layer onto individual fibres to a thickness of 20 nm. The conductive silver layer fully encapsulates fibres and has good adhesion and excellent conductivity.

The researchers don’t appear to have published a paper but there is a bit more information on the NPL’s Smart Textiles webpage,

At NPL the Electronics Interconnection group has developed a new method to produce conductive textiles. This new technique could make integrating electronics into all types of clothing simple and practical by enabling lightweight circuits to be printed directly onto complete garments.

The nano silver material is chemically bonded to the fabric, encapsulating the fibres and providing full coverage. The resulting textile demonstrates good adhesion, flexibility and is stretchable achieving excellent resistivity of 0.2 Ω/sq.

My May 9, 2012 posting concerns a project where batteries were being woven into textiles for the US military.

Getting intimate with your smart clothing at Concordia University (Canada)

The Karma Chameleon project at Concordia University is an investigation into ‘smart’ clothing that goes beyond the ‘how to’ and also asks how would we feel about clothing than can transform itself without our volition. An Apr. 16, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily highlights the project and its lead researcher, Joanna Berkowska,

Joanna Berzowska, professor and chair of the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia, has developed interactive electronic fabrics that harness power directly from the human body, store that energy, and then use it to change the garments’ visual properties.

“Our goal is to create garments that can transform in complex and surprising ways — far beyond reversible jackets, or shirts that change colour in response to heat. That’s why the project is called Karma Chameleon,” says Berzowska.

The Apr. 15, 2013 Concordia University news release by Emily Essert, which originated the news item, describes the unique technical aspect of this work,

The major innovation of this research project is the ability to embed these electronic or computer functions within the fibre itself: rather than being attached to the textile, the necessary electronic components are woven into these new composite fibres. The fibres consist of multiple layers of polymers, which, when stretched and drawn out to a small diameter, begin to interact with each other. The fabric, produced in collaboration with the École Polytechnique de Montréal’s Maksim Skorobogatiy, represent a significant advance in the development of “smart textiles.”

Although it’s not yet possible to manufacture clothing with the new composite fibres, Berzowska worked with fashion designers to create conceptual prototypes that can help us visualize how such clothing might look and behave. Imagine a dress that changes shape and colour on its own, or a shirt that can capture the energy from human movement and use it to charge an iPhone

According to Berzowska, it will be two to three decades before we see this clothing in the stores but in the meantime she’s also investigating the social impact (from the Concordia news release),

There would also be a performative aspect to wearing such garments, whose dramatic transformations may or may not be controlled by the wearer. This research raises interesting questions about human agency relative to fashion and computers. What would it mean to wear a piece of clothing with “a mind of its own,” that cannot be consciously controlled? How much intimate contact with computers do we really want?

Apparently, there will be a show at Montréal’s PHi Centre in either 2o13 or 2014, Unfortunately the centre does not list any events planned after June 2013.

The project title, Karma Chameleon gives me an excuse to feature Boy George’s identically titled hit song,

I’d never seen the video before and it was a revelation. Tip: Do not pickpocket jewellery or cheat at cards; Karma will get you.