The new e-fabric has the durability of silk fabric, and is less costly and faster to produce than existing e-textiles.
Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhoto.net
Researchers from South Korea led by college professors Kim Byeong-hoon of Incheon University and Jin Hyeong-joon of Inha University have developed the world's first ever electronic textile manufacturing technology that is based on silk.
The fabric, which retains silk's high-temperature resistance and hydrogen bond cooperativity, is coated with graphene oxide without the use of adhesive. The process involved dipping the base fabric in a graphene oxide solution then letting it dry. These steps were repeated until the coating is fully applied. The researchers also employed heat to accelerate the process of reduction to create the electronic textile.
The new silk-based e-textile showed little deformation even after being washed and bent, and maintained an electronic conductivity of about 10 S/m, almost identical to existing electronic fabrics. The main advantages of the new fabric are lower production cost and shorter production period. Currently, the high cost of manufacturing and the complex processes involved are the biggest factors hindering the development of electronic textiles.
The team expects that this innovation can contribute significantly to the development of flexible display panels, wearable devices and intelligent sensors. In recent years, e-textiles have been widely adopted for combat uniforms, biometric apparel and smart wearables.