Printing Nanosilver onto Fibers for Flexible Wearable Electronics


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8(Nanowerk News) Scientists at the National Physical  Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Measurement Institute, have developed a way  to print silver directly onto fibres. This new technique could make integrating  electronics into all types of clothing simple and practical.

This has many  potential applications in sports, health, medicine, consumer electronics and  fashion. Most current plans for wearable electronics require weaving  conductive materials into fabrics, which offer limited flexibility and can only  be achieved when integrated into the design of the clothing from the start.  NPL’s technique could allow lightweight circuits to be printed directly onto  complete garments.

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Smart  fabric connected to a power source conducting electrical charge through a LED.
Silver coated fibers created using this technique are flexible  and stretchable, meaning circuits can be easily printed onto many different  types of fabric, including wool which is knitted in tight loops.
The technique involves chemically bonding a nano-silver layer  onto individual fibers to a thickness of 20 nm. The conductive silver layer  fully encapsulates fibers and has good adhesion and excellent conductivity.
Chris Hunt, Project Lead, says: “The technique has many  potential applications. 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. It offers particular benefits over the  ‘weaving in’ approach, as the conductive pattern and flexibility ensures that  sensors are always positioned in the same location on the body.”
The technique could also create opportunities in fashion and  consumer technology, such as incorporating LED lighting into clothing or having  touch-screens on shirt sleeves.
In addition, silver has antibacterial properties, opening up  opportunities for medical applications such as wound dressings, face masks, long  lasting anti-bacterial wipes, and military clothing.
Having successfully shown that the additive technique is viable  in the lab, NPL is now looking for funding or collaborators to develop a full  printed circuit on a textile, which can be tested for flexibility and  robustness, for example by putting it through the wash. Once this has been  successfully achieved, the scientists will then look to develop prototypes of  practical applications.
Further information can be found at: http://www.npl.co.uk/ei/smart-textiles
Source: National Physical Laboratory 

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