An electronic textile that is six meres long with a width of 25cm has been developed by a team at Fudan University in China, opening up the potential for applications in communications, navigation and healthcare.
The textile is flexible, breathable and durable, making it an ideal material for practical uses, according to Professor Huisheng Peng, of Fudan’s Department of Macromolecular Engineering who led the development team.
Electronic textiles capable of communicating, sensing and supplying electricity have been reported previously, but textiles with functional, large-area displays have not yet been achieved, because it is challenging to obtain small illuminating units that are both durable and easy to assemble over a wide area.
Weaving conductive weft and luminescent warp fibres forms micrometre-scale electroluminescent units at the weft–warp contact points. The brightness between electroluminescent units deviates by less than 8 per cent and remains stable even when the textile is bent, stretched or pressed.
As the diameter of the light-emitting fibres can be precisely adjusted between 0.2 mm and 0.5 mm, clothing woven with it can be ultra-fine and ultra-flexible. Fabrics will fit the irregular contours of the human body and can be as light and breathable as ordinary fabric.
After 1,000 cycles of bending, stretching and pressing, the performance of the vast majority of electroluminescent units remained stable. In addition, the brightness of the electroluminescent units remained stable after 100 cycles of washing and drying.
The researchers incorporated a touch-sensitive 16-button fabric keyboard, solar-energy-harvesting threads and battery fibres into their textile to add interactivity and a power supply. They added electronics to wirelessly link it to a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection so users could send and receive messages on their sleeves, as well as see real-time locations on a map.
According to Innovation in Textiles