Fabric to Smarten-Up Chip-Embedded Clothes

December 14, 2012 / No Comments

Electronic textiles or “electrotextiles” pop up everywhere – from shoes to shower curtains. André Studart has introduced a new flexible electronic fabric, which in appearance is similar to a translucent Band-Aid with a blue LED light.

fabric 21 Fabric to Smarten Up Chip Embedded Clothes

From his office in Switzerland, he demonstrated the LED strip for TechNewsDaily over Skype. He stretched the strip by pulling the end of it away from each other. But, the LED didn’t widen. Even 1% of stretch cannot be tolerated, if so, it will consequently break into pieces.

A materials scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Studart and his colleagues have resolved the problem by introducing a soft, stretchy material that can integrate stiff parts like LED, and protect those parts from stretching.

It will be the most flexible electronics to hit the shelves with in five to 10 years. To insert some silicon chips onto a piece of soft fabric or plastic wrap is not a difficult thing. The problem lies in keeping the electronic-studded fabric strong even after pulling and stretching.

Because inserting stiff materials will make the fabric tear right at the edge between soft and hard. Just like tendons, a soft biological material made of collagen, in the body, Studart’s LED-protecting material is also made of a soft base material, called polyurethane, with varying amounts of platelets in it that create a band.

Their work was published in the journal Nature Communications. Studart still has to work with the stretchy electronic fabrics to make it more reliable for everyday use.