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Silver bonding technique could provide a simple way of producing smart fabrics

By

July 30, 2013

A working sample of NPL's silver-coated conductive fabric

A working sample of NPL's silver-coated conductive fabric

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Textiles with integrated electrical circuits, commonly referred to as smart fabrics, show a great deal of promise for applications such as clothing with embedded electronics. While previous approaches to producing the fabrics have involved weaving conductive materials into ordinary fibers, a new technique simply coats them with silver.

Developed at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, the process involves chemically bonding a 20 nanometer-thick layer of silver onto the individual fibers of conventional fabrics. Each fiber is fully encapsulated, while remaining flexible and stretchable. The silver coating reportedly adheres well to a wide variety of materials, and is highly conductive.

The silver-coating fabric remains flexible and stretchable

According to the scientists, smart fabrics that utilize the previously-mentioned “weaving in” technique tend to lack flexibility, and must be incorporated into the item of clothing from the start. By contrast, the silver bonding method leaves the material flexible, and can be applied to existing garments.

“The technique has many potential applications” says project leader Chris Hunt. “One particularly exciting area is wearable sensors and antennas which could be used for monitoring, for example checking on patients and vulnerable people; data capture and feedback for soldiers in the field; and performance monitoring in sports.”

Because silver in known for its antibacterial qualities, the technology could also make its way into items like wound dressings and long-lasting antibacterial wipes.

Source: National Physical Laboratory

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

so what happens if you wear this type of fabric in tropical areas with incessant thunder storms and lightening bolts packing thousands of electrical volts?

phluid
31st July, 2013 @ 08:10 am PDT

phluid, this method produces conductive fabrics. Whether that are smart or not depends on how you use them.

MBadgero
31st July, 2013 @ 11:01 am PDT

re; phluid

surrounding your body in good electrical conductors would not raise the odds of getting hit enough to measure but reduce the likelihood of dieing if you get hit.

It could also ruin the day of someone shooting you with a taser.

Slowburn
1st August, 2013 @ 12:19 pm PDT

This reminds me of the gray, magically woven Elven cloaks in Tolkien ...

Kate Gladstone
2nd August, 2013 @ 11:08 am PDT
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