Soon, we may be able to wear clothing that embeds mp3 players and phones and is lightweight and durable at the same time.
How? It's thanks to a new technology that has been pioneered by a team of researchers who have managed to embed flexible graphene electrodes into clothes.
Monica Craciun, a professor at the University of Exeter, along with a team of international scientists, has forged a new technique in which transparent graphene electrodes can be embedded into fibers that are commonly manufactured by the textile industry.
The discovery could potentially propel and shape future wearable electronic devices.
"This a pivotal point in the future of wearable electronic devices. The potential has been there for a number of years, and transparent and flexible electrodes are already widely used in plastics and glass, for example. But this is the first example of a textile electrode being truly embedded in a yarn," says Professor Craciun, co-author of the research.
For the purpose of the current study, the researchers found a technique in which they could relocate graphene from the copper foils onto a polypropylene fiber.
The researchers discovered that "monolayer graphene," which is not only transparent, but also has fantastic mechanical, electrical and optical properties, is a good bet for use in wearable electronic devices. The scientists grew the graphene used using the CVD or chemical vapor deposition method on copper foil. They deployed a top-end nanoCVD system for the purpose.
The possibilities of this technique are limitless, and as Professor Craciun notes, they could be deployed in textile GPS systems, personal security and even biomedical monitoring.
Graphene is one of the strongest known substances to mankind. It is also the thinnest — at one atom thick — and is a good conductor of electricity.
In recent years, both engineers and researchers have invested their efforts in finding ways for using graphene in wearable electronic devices.
"The development of processes and engineering for the integration of graphene in textiles would give rise to a new universe of commercial applications," opined lead researcher Helena Alves of the University of Aveiro.
The findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.