PRESS TRUST OF IN­DIA Sci­en­tists de­sign fab­rics that can store charge for smart clothes

Business Standard - - ECONOMY - 10 November

Sci­en­tists have de­vel­oped a method that can al­low fab­rics to store charge, paving the way for self-pow­ered smart gar­ments that can mon­i­tor health in real time.

A ma­jor fac­tor hold­ing back de­vel­op­ment of wear­able biosen­sors for health mon­i­tor­ing is the lack of a light­weight, lon­glast­ing power sup­ply.

Sci­en­tists at the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts Amherst in the US have de­vel­oped a method for mak­ing a charge-stor­ing sys­tem that is eas­ily in­te­grated into cloth­ing for "em­broi­der­ing a chargestor­ing pat­tern onto any gar­ment." "Bat­ter­ies or other kinds of charge stor­age are still the lim­it­ing com­po­nents for most portable, wear­able, in­gestible or flex­i­ble tech­nolo­gies. The de­vices tend to be some com­bi­na­tion of too large, too heavy and not flex­i­ble," said Tr­isha L Andrew, who led the study pub­lished in the jour­nal ACS Ap­plied Ma­te­ri­als & In­ter­faces.

The method uses a mi­cro-su­per­ca­pac­i­tor and com­bines vapour-coated con­duc­tive threads with a poly­mer film, plus a spe­cial sewing tech­nique to cre­ate a flex­i­ble mesh of aligned elec­trodes on a tex­tile back­ing.

The re­sult­ing solid-state de­vice has a high abil­ity to store charge for its size, and other char­ac­ter­is­tics that al­low it to power wear­able biosen­sors.

While re­searchers have re­mark­ably minia­turised many dif­fer­ent elec­tronic cir­cuit com­po­nents, un­til now the same could not be said for charge-stor­ing de­vices.

"We show that we can lit­er­ally em­broi­der a chargestor­ing pat­tern onto any gar­ment us­ing the vapour­coated threads that our lab makes. This opens the door for sim­ply sewing cir­cuits on self-pow­ered smart gar­ments," said Andrew.

Re­searchers point out that su­per­ca­pac­i­tors are ideal can­di­dates for wear­able charge stor­age cir­cuits be­cause they have in­her­ently higher power den­si­ties com­pared to bat­ter­ies.

How­ever, "in­cor­po­rat­ing elec­tro­chem­i­cally ac­tive ma­te­ri­als with high elec­tri­cal con­duc­tiv­i­ties and rapid ion trans­port into tex­tiles is chal­leng­ing," they said.

Re­searchers showed that their vapour coat­ing process cre­ates por­ous con­duct­ing poly­mer films on densely-twisted yarns, which can be eas­ily swelled with elec­trolyte ions and main­tain high charge stor­age ca­pac­ity per unit length as com­pared to prior work with dyed or ex­truded fi­bres.

Andrew noted that tex­tile sci­en­tists have tended not to use vapour de­po­si­tion be­cause of tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties and high costs, but more re­cently, re­search has shown that the tech­nol­ogy can be scaled up and re­main cost­ef­fec­tive.

Re­searchers are work­ing on in­cor­po­rat­ing the new em­broi­dered charge-stor­age ar­rays with e-tex­tile sen­sors and low-power mi­cro­pro­ces­sors to build smart gar­ments that can mon­i­tor a per­son's gait and joint move­ments through­out a nor­mal day.

The de­vice has the abil­ity to store charge, which can, power wear­able biosen­sors

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