Breakthroughs in materials and process development have enabled emerging smart textiles technologies based on electronics with new form factors. There is tremendous progress in smart textiles for lighting/display applications. However, a large-scale approach for a smart display system with integrated multifunctional devices in traditional textile platforms has yet to be demonstrated.
An international team of scientists led by the University of Cambridge has produced a 46-inch fully woven smart textile display with smart sensors, energy harvesting, and storage integrated directly into the fabric. The display integrates active electronic, sensing, energy, and photonic functions.
These functions are embedded within the fibers and yarns. These fibers and yarns are manufactured using textile-based industrial processes.
To make the smart technology compatible with weaving, scientists coated each fiber component with materials that have great durability. The material gives fibers a strong emphasis on mechanical and electrical stabilities.
Some of the fiber-based components are braided to improve their reliability and durability. At last, all these components are connected using conductive adhesives and laser welding techniques.
Thanks to all these techniques, scientists could add multiple functionalities into a large piece of woven fabric. To do so, they used standard, scalable textile manufacturing processes.
The fabric, as a result, operates as a display, monitor various inputs, or store energy for later use. It can detect radiofrequency signals, touch, light, and temperature. One can also roll it up.
Scientists noted, “The prototype display paves the way to next-generation e-textile applications in sectors such as smart and energy-efficient buildings that can generate and store their energy, Internet of Things (IoT), distributed sensor networks and interactive displays that are flexible and wearable when integrated with fabrics.”
Professor Jong-min Kim, from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, co-led the research with Dr. Luigi Occhipinti and Professor Manish Chhowalla, said, “Our approach is built on the convergence of micro and nanotechnology, advanced displays, sensors, energy, and technical textile manufacturing. This is a step towards fully exploiting sustainable, convenient e-fibers and e-textiles in daily applications. And it’s only the beginning.”
“By integrating fiber-based electronics, photonics, sensing, and energy functionalities, we can achieve a whole new class of smart devices and systems. By unleashing the full potential of textile manufacturing, we could soon see smart and energy-autonomous Internet of Things devices that are seamlessly integrated into everyday objects and many other sector applications.”
- H.W. Choi et al. ‘Smart textile lighting/display system with multifunctional fibre devices for large scale smart home and IoT applications.’ Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28459-6