Graphene textiles could enable wearable electronics

Researchers at the Cambridge Graphene Centre (CGC) at the University of Cambridge, UK, working in collaboration with scientists at Jiangnan University, China, have devised a method for depositing graphene-based inks onto cotton to produce a conductive textile.

The work, published in the journal Carbon, demonstrates a wearable motion sensor based on the conductive cotton.

One new process, developed by Dr Felice Torrisi and his collaborators at the CGC, is a low-cost, sustainable and environmentally friendly method for making conductive cotton textiles by infusing them with a graphene-based conductive ink.

Based on Torrisi’s work on the formulation of printable graphene inks for flexible electronics, the team created inks of chemically modified graphene flakes that are more adhesive to cotton fibres than unmodified graphene.

Torrisi said: “Other conductive inks are made from precious metals such as silver, which makes them very expensive to produce and not sustainable, whereas graphene is both cheap, environmentally-friendly, and chemically compatible with cotton.”

Co-author Professor Chaoxia Wang of Jiangnan University added: “This method will allow us to put electronic systems directly into clothes. It’s an incredible enabling technology for smart textiles.”

The work opens a number of commercial opportunities for graphene-based inks, ranging from personal health technology, high-performance sportswear, military garments, wearable technology/computing and fashion.

Torrisi concluded: “Turning cotton fibres into functional electronic components can open to an entirely new set of applications from healthcare and wellbeing to the internet of things.

“Thanks to nanotechnology, in the future our clothes could incorporate these textile-based electronics and become interactive.”

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