Graphene-based wearable e-textiles move closer to commercial production

December 19, 2017 by Lisa Zyga, Phys.org feature
Demonstration of laboratory-scale pad-dry unit and illustration of the pad-dry unit process. Illustration by Daniel Wand. Credit: Karim et al. ©2017 American Chemical Society

The market for e-textile clothing is forecasted to reach $5 billion by 2027, according to the market research firm IDTechEX. And while graphene is expected to be one of the most prominent materials in wearable e-textiles, currently there is no good way to manufacture graphene-based e-textiles on an industrial scale.

To address this problem, a team of researchers led by Professor Kostya S. Novoselov at The University of Manchester have developed a scalable process to manufacture graphene-based wearable e-textiles on an . As they write in their paper published in a recent issue of ACS Nano, the method could allow graphene e-textiles to be manufactured at commercial production rates of 150 meters per minute.

"To be able to produce graphene-based wearable e-textiles in scalable quantity at very high speed is a significant breakthrough for the rapidly growing wearables market," first author Nazmul Karim at The University of Manchester told Phys.org. "Our simple and cost-effective way of producing multifunctional graphene textiles could easily be scaled up for many real-life applications, such as sportswear, military gear, and medical clothing."

In the new method, the team has reversed the previous process of coating textiles with graphene-based materials. Traditionally, the textiles are first coated with , and then the graphene oxide is reduced to its functional form of reduced graphene oxide. Instead, here the researchers first reduced the graphene oxide in solution, and then coated the textiles with the reduced form.

By making coating the final step, it becomes possible to use a coating technique called padding, which is currently the most commonly used method of applying functional finishes to textiles in the textile industry. For example, water-repellent and wrinkle-free clothing are often made by padding.

A commercial pad-dry unit can process approximately 150 meters of fabric in just one minute—a huge leap from laboratory methods for coating textiles with graphene that often involve multiple time-consuming steps. As the researchers write in their paper, they believe that using padding to manufacture graphene-based e-textiles will be an important step in moving from R&D-based e-textiles to real-world applications.

In their study, the researchers demonstrated that e-textiles made by a laboratory-scale pad-dry unit exhibited excellent electrical and mechanical characteristics. Tests showed that the reduced oxide forms a uniform coating around the individual cotton fibers, which results in good electric conductivity, tensile strength, breathability, flexibility, and overall comfort of the fabric. The coated fabric also appears to remain electrically conductive after repeated washing cycles.

Graphene-based wearable e-textiles have a variety of potential applications. One possibility, which the researchers demonstrated, is that sensors can be incorporated into the fabric for monitoring physical activity. A sensor mounted on the wrist, for example, can capture mechanical movements such as bending/unbending, stretching/relaxation, and twisting/untwisting. Another possibility is to incorporate flexible heating elements throughout an item of clothing, along with flexible supercapacitors to power them.

"Our future research plan is to look into other 2D materials and utilize their benefits for wearable e-textiles applications," Karim said. "We are also looking to commercialize these technologies in collaboration with industrial partners."

Explore further: Flexible batteries power the future of wearable technology

More information: Nazmul Karim et al. "Scalable Production of Graphene-Based Wearable E-Textiles." ACS Nano. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b05921

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MR166
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2017
First of all couldn't electrically conducting clothing be a hazard around electrical wiring. People die touching AC wires with their hands now perhaps just your clothing needs to touch. Perhaps it could burst into flames due to a heavy current.

Secondly, why would anyone want electronics as part of their clothing ? What would be a suitable application for this? OK perhaps there might be some medical applications but other than that why would I want an I-phone in my underpants?
MR166
not rated yet Dec 19, 2017
Oh wait, is anyone here old enough to remember the TV series Get Smart with agent 99? He did have a shoe phone.
gkam
3 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2017
There are other factors. I helped to test the burning of graphite fiber materials for NASA and found they ablate and the fine needles of carbon find their way into our bodies. I can visualize how brushes and abrasions can tear off these tiny needles for us to breathe.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2017
There are other factors. I helped to test the burning of graphite fiber materials for NASA and found they ablate and the fine needles of carbon find their way into our bodies. I can visualize how brushes and abrasions can tear off these tiny needles for us to breathe.
Another job george kamburoff lied himself into and then quickly lost. Because he wasnt actually qualified to do them.

How many was that georgie? 16? 18?

And why do you think that someone here would think that an unqualified job shop tech would know anything about textile engineering or chemistry?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2017
Re the article: I dont get it. Why have dedicated electronic clothes that you have to wash when you can have electronics that slip into your pockets?

"Oh its too hot for my GPS jacket and my GPS suit is at the cleaners..."
scuzzmonster
not rated yet Dec 20, 2017
If they could come out with something non-natural that didn't have me sweating like a navvy's scrotum the second I put it on, I'd be eternally grateful.
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2017
If everyone is so concerned with fitness, why are Westerners so overweight?
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Dec 22, 2017
If everyone is so concerned with fitness, why are Westerners so overweight?
because everyone is not so concerned with fitness.
MR166
not rated yet Dec 22, 2017
If everyone is so concerned with fitness, why are Westerners so overweight?


Excess weight, heart conditions and diabetes are all due to the US governments recommended food pyramid. It recommends high glycemic index carbs like breads, potatoes and rice as the foundation of a healthy diet and avoids fats and oils as a source of calories. This leads to overeating.
DirtySquirties
5 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2017
If everyone is so concerned with fitness, why are Westerners so overweight?
because everyone is not so concerned with fitness.


And most of the people that are concerned about it also think that walking for 15 minutes during their lunch break and making micro-adjustments to their diet (ex: diet coke instead of regular coke) is going to make them healthy. I can't tell you how many times coworkers do this and then complain nothing works.

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