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Electronic fabric for smart clothing

Fabric that incorporates built.in sensors—this sci-fi scenario is a real-life research project at LiU. The new technology opens the door not only for smart apparel, but also for implants in the human body.

Textile electronics is a rapidly expanding branch of textile engineering. It ranges from the application of traditional electronics on conventional textiles to the ultimate step of creating fabric that is a sensor: the fabric is electronically active. This latter technology is described in an article by LiU researchers in Nature Material, a monthly multidisciplinary journal that presents cutting-edge research in materials science.

Mahiar Hamedi, doctoral student in organic electronics, has conducted the experimental segment of the project.

"We use thin fabric fibers, about 10 micrometers in diameter, and coat them with conducting plastic. These threads are then woven into conventional fabric in a predetermined pattern," Mahiar explains.

Researcher Hamedi has experimented with synthetic fibers such as nylon, Kevlar and polyester in lengths of several meters. The sensors are a new type developed at LiU, electrochemical transistors constructed of plastic. The circuits have no inorganic components, neither silicon nor metals.

This technology makes it possible to weave electronics in conventional fabric for many applications—warmth, communication and home health care among them. The property of flexibility equips the fabric for unconventional applications such as soft screens for television and computers. Mahiar Hamedi is enthusiastic about the use of woven logic in bioelectronic applications, where implanted electronic components can steer bodily processes.

"The fabric is compatible with human tissue," he explains. "This opens the door to interesting medical applications, for instance, connecting to an optic nerve to alleviate visual impairment."

The article "Towards woven logic from organic electronic fibers" is co-authored by Mahiar Hamedi, Olle Inganäs, and Robert Forchheimer. This research project is a collaboration with Magnus Berggren's scientific team at Campus Norrköping and Maria Asplund, doctoral student specializing in neuronics at the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH. Stockholm.


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Last updated: 2009-06-03