New Knitting Technique Produces Electronic Smart Fabrics at Industrial Scales

Image: Foroughi et al
Image: Foroughi et al
Australian scientists have developed a knitting technique capable of producing electrically-conductive Spandex-carbon nanotube hybrid textiles at industrial scales. As described earlier this month in a paper published in ACS Nano, the stretchable fabrics „exhibit excellent performance“ as sensors and artificial muscles. Potential applications include adjustable smart clothing, robotics, and medical devices.

By Michael Byrne | MOTHERBOARD

At the core of the material is regular old Spandex, which is basically artificial super-rubber spun into fibers. In the process outlined in the paper, SPX filaments are coated with aerogel sheets of carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes have the neat property of tunable electrical conductivity, and by tweaking the fabrication process, it’s possible to create materials with electrical and mechanical properties that change as the fabric changes shape. Meet the bike shorts of the future.

„The coating method operates at room temperature, requires no solvents, and does not compromise textile production speeds,“ the Australian team reports. As such, the hybrid yarns are also pretty cheap to produce—a key requirement.

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