A new fabric developed by a team of Chinese scientists that works like a smartphone could have applications in communications, navigation, healthcare and security.
The high-tech garment could improve the safety of cyclists, motorists and first responders. For example, a brush on a sleeve could show a “textile map” on your arm, in an instant.
The inexpensive material turns a jacket into a touchscreen and could be in stores by Christmas, according to the SWNS news agency.
Powered by solar energy, it combines conductive and luminescent fibers with cotton.
Portable technology has been promised for years, but creating large screens integrated with functional systems has proven challenging.
Researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai overcame this problem dramatically with a display fabric nearly 20 feet long and 10 inches wide.
The corresponding author who described the new electronic textile in the newspaper Nature Last month, Professor Huisheng Peng said: “The fabric is flexible, breathable and durable, making it ideal for the real world.”
“Conventional solid-state materials are not easily compatible with textiles because they struggle to resist the natural deformation that occurs when fabrics are worn and washed,” Peng said.
“It is integrated with a touch-sensitive cloth keyboard and a power supply that harvests solar energy,” he added.
In the experiments, the electronic textile functioned as a navigation tool displaying an interactive map. He also communicated by sending or retrieving messages through a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone.
Professor Peng said the screen is produced by illuminating units that are formed where conductive and luminescent fibers meet at contact points in woven fabric.
They survived 1,000 bending, stretching, and pressing cycles. The gloss remained after 100 wash and dry cycles.
With the addition of more applications, it is expected to shape the next generation of electronic communication tools.
They first prepared two types of fiber electrodes: one coated with active material and the other transparent and elastic. They then wove them together as yarns to produce the display textile, which is highly flexible and proved itself in three typical applications.
“They are not just conceptions. In fact, we can produce these display textiles on a large scale at low cost, ”said Peng. “We are already providing them to companies. I think they will start to be used this year, at least, no later than next year. “
The potential is enormous, for both the public and private sectors. Policemen or road workers can use them at night to be more secure.
The team even envisions that this could convert brain waves into signals on clothing, which would be useful for people who cannot speak.
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