Smarter Textiles using Carbon nanotubes

Smarter Textiles using Carbon nanotubes


A team of engineers at the University of Delaware
is developing next-generation smart textiles by creating flexible carbon nanotube composite
coatings on a wide range of fibers, including cotton, nylon and wool. Their discovery is reported in the journal
ACS Sensors where they demonstrate the ability to measure an exceptionally wide range of
pressure – from the light touch of a fingertip to being driven over by a forklift. Fabric coated with this sensing technology
could be used in future “smart garments” where the sensors are slipped into the soles
of shoes or stitched into clothing for detecting human motion. Carbon nanotubes give this light, flexible,
breathable fabric coating impressive sensing capability. When the material is squeezed, large electrical
changes in the fabric are easily measured. As a sensor, it’s very sensitive to forces
ranging from touch to tons. Nerve-like electrically conductive nanocomposite
coatings are created on the fibers using electrophoretic deposition (EPD) of polyethyleneimine functionalized
carbon nanotubes. The films act much like a dye that adds electrical
sensing functionality. Now, researchers can add these sensors to
fabric in a way that is superior to current methods for making smart textiles. One potential application of the sensor-coated
fabric is to measure forces on people’s feet as they walk. This data could help clinicians assess imbalances
after injury or help to prevent injury in athletes. This technology could also be promising for
sports medicine applications, post-surgical recovery, and for assessing movement disorders
in pediatric populations.

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