Graphene Textiles Could Enable Wearable Electronics

02 December 2016

A method for producing conductive cotton fabrics using graphene-based inks may open possibilities for flexible and wearable electronics, without the use of potentially expensive and toxic processing steps.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge (UC), working with scientists at Jiangnan University, China, have devised a method for depositing graphene-based inks onto cotton to produce a conductive textile. They say the work demonstrates a wearable motion sensor based on the conductive cotton.

The fabric remains conductive after several washes. Credit: University of CambridgeThe fabric remains conductive after several washes. Credit: University of CambridgeIn the process, developed by Dr. Felice Torrisi, UC lecturer in graphene technology, and collaborators, the team created inks of chemically modified graphene flakes. These flakes are more adhesive to cotton fibers than unmodified graphene.

After depositing the ink on the fabric, heat treatment was used to improve the conductivity of the modified graphene. The adhesion of the modified graphene to the cotton fiber is similar to the way cotton holds colored dyes. It allows the fabric to remain conductive after several washes.

Most current wearable technologies rely on rigid electronic components mounted on flexible materials, such as plastic films or textiles, the researchers say. These offer limited compatibility with the skin in many circumstances, are sometimes damaged when washed, and can be uncomfortable to wear because they are not breathable.

According to the researchers, the work could open commercial opportunities for graphene-based inks, ranging from personal health technology to high-performance sportswear, military garments and wearable technology/computing.

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