Wearable Electronic, Non-Rigid Circuits are Now a Thing
Coming soon to a pair of pants near you, you might one day wear your iPod. Thanks to a breakthrough in textile electronics by researchers at the University of Cambridge, with assistance from researchers in Italy and China, you might soon be able to wear electronic, smart clothing that is virtually indistinguishable from simple fabric clothing.
The technique uses nanofibers called graphene to print circuits directly onto fabric without requiring any rigid support system to preserve the circuits.
From Science Daily
Researchers have successfully incorporated washable, stretchable and breathable electronic circuits into fabric, opening up new possibilities for smart textiles and wearable electronics. The circuits were made with cheap, safe and environmentally friendly inks, and printed using conventional inkjet printing techniques.
The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, working with colleagues in Italy and China, have demonstrated how graphene — a two-dimensional form of carbon — can be directly printed onto fabric to produce integrated electronic circuits which are comfortable to wear and can survive up to 20 cycles in a typical washing machine.
The new textile electronic devices are based on low-cost, sustainable and scalable inkjet printing of inks based on graphene and other two-dimensional materials, and are produced by standard processing techniques. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.
Based on earlier work on the formulation of graphene inks for printed electronics, the team designed low-boiling point inks, which were directly printed onto polyester fabric. Additionally, they found that modifying the roughness of the fabric improved the performance of the printed devices. The versatility of this process allowed the researchers to design not only single transistors but all-printed integrated electronic circuits combining active and passive components.
Most wearable electronic devices that are currently available rely on rigid electronic components mounted on plastic, rubber or textiles. These offer limited compatibility with the skin in many circumstances, are damaged when washed and are uncomfortable to wear because they are not breathable.
“Other inks for printed electronics normally require toxic solvents and are not suitable to be worn, whereas our inks are both cheap, safe and environmentally-friendly, and can be combined to create electronic circuits by simply printing different two-dimensional materials on the fabric,” said Dr Felice Torrisi of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, the paper’s senior author.