An international team of scientists, led by the University of Cambridge, produced a fully woven smart textile display that integrates electronic, sensing, energy and photonic functions. These functions are “embedded” directly into the fibers and yarns, manufactured using textile-based industrial processes.
A revolutionary solution
Until now, manufacturing processes severely limited the development of smart fabrics.
In fact, it is the first time that a scalable large-area complex system has been integrated into textiles through conventional weaving or knitting processes.
This result therefore reveals the possibility of using specialized fibers in everyday objects.
Overcoming the limitations
To make the technology compatible with weaving, the scientists coated each fibre component with materials that can withstand stretching. Additionally, the researchers braided some of the fibre-based components to improve their reliability and durability.
Finally, the team used conductive adhesives and laser welding techniques to connect the components together.
These solutions have made it possible to develop a fabric with multiple functions through standard and scalable textile production processes. The applications will be multiple and almost science fiction: curtains that are also TVs, energy-harvesting carpets, interactive and self-powered fabrics.
It follows that such fabrics can operate as displays, but also monitor various inputs or store energy. They can also detect radio frequency, touch, light and temperature signals.
A new class of intelligent devices
This discovery will pave the way for innovative e-textile applications.
In particular, the sectors of smart buildings, Internet of Things and sensoring will benefit.
The convergence of micro and nanotechnology, advanced displays, sensors, energy and technical textile manufacturing will, in fact, favor the creation of a completely new class of intelligent devices and systems.