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John O | July 2018

Thanks to European researchers, electronics fashion is on the horizon

By Josh Perry, Editor


According to a recent article from Horizon, a research and innovation magazine that covers the European Union (EU), researchers are on the verge of bringing electronics and fashion together by threading circuitry into clothes to create comfortably wearable devices.


Sandwiching doped zinc sulphide between graphene in textiles can create glowing clothes. (Dr. Elias Torres Alonso, University of Exeter)


The E-TEX project, which is being led by the University of Exeter (U.K.), is trying to solve the challenge of wearable electronics being bulky and hard to incorporate into everyday clothes. Researchers have turned to building electronic devices directly into the fibers of the textile. For instance, a t-shirt that could monitor a wearer’s heartbeat.


This project stemmed from 2014 research that used graphene as a coating on textiles to utilize th material’s electrical conductivity. As the article explained, “The semi-metal is just a few atoms thick, making it extremely lightweight, and it can be bent and even stretched while remaining robust. It is also transparent, which makes it suitable for light-emitting displays.”


Researchers are working with a layer of light-emitting, doped zinc sulphide sandwiched between two graphene layers. This was then included in fibers woven together as a textile to create fabric. When plugged into a power source, the fibers glowed.


“In the future, the E-TEX team hopes to harvest energy from a person’s movements so that the fabrics can be self-powered,” the article continued. “As flexible, plastic solar cells become more efficient, they could also be incorporated as a power source.”


A second project being run by the University of Manchester (U.K.), ETexWeld, is working on a method for integrating multiple electronics into clothing by connecting them all without traditional, bulky wires. Another challenge that researchers are facing is how to wash electronic clothing and an international team of scientists has created a smart uniform for firefighters that wirelessly transmits data about the wearer and can also withstand different environments.


Read the full article at https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/electronic-wool-take-wearable-tech-catwalk-your-wardrobe_en.html.

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