An international team of scientists have produced a fully woven smart textile display that integrates active electronic, sensing, energy and photonic functions. The functions are embedded directly into the fibers and yarns, which are manufactured using textile-based industrial processes.
This is the first time that a scalable large-area complex system has been integrated into textiles using an entirely fiber-based manufacturing approach. Integrating specialized fibers into textiles through conventional weaving or knitting processes means they could be incorporated into everyday objects, which opens up a huge range of potential applications.
To make the technology compatible with weaving, the researchers coated each fiber component with materials that can withstand enough stretching so they can be used on textile manufacturing equipment. The team also braided some of the fiber-based components to improve their reliability and durability. Finally, they connected multiple fiber components together using conductive adhesives and laser welding techniques.
The resulting fabric can operate as a display, monitor various inputs, or store energy for later use. The fabric can detect radiofrequency signals, touch, light and temperature. It can also be rolled up, and because it is made using commercial textile manufacturing techniques, large rolls of functional fabric could be made this way.
The researchers, led by the University of Cambridge/UK, say their prototype display paves the way to next-generation e-textile applications in sectors such as smart and energy-efficient buildings that can generate and store their own energy, Internet of Things (IoT), distributed sensor networks and interactive displays that are flexible and wearable when integrated with fabrics.