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Fabric Circuits Pave the Way For Wearable Tech

A close-knit conductor.

A new "fabric circuit board" textile is threaded with electrical wiring.

Credit: Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Smart apparel needs to tolerate the stresses of repeated washing to be commercially viable, and researchers at Hong Kong's Institute of Textiles and Clothing have developed what they call a fabric circuit board, a textile threaded with electrical wiring.

The fabric is composed of filaments of pre-stretched elastic yarn and polyurethane-coated copper fibers that are interweaved using a computerized knitting machine.

Testing demonstrated the material can be stretched by 20 percent approximately 1 million times before any of the fibers fail.

Lead researcher Xiao-Ming Tao says the fabric also can be used in multiple layers because of the polyurethane insulation cladding the copper.

The researchers found no problems with the fabric's deformation or electrical resistance until the material had been subjected to at least 30 washes at 40 degrees Celsius and drying at 75 degrees Celsius.

"Washability is a big plus for e-textile circuits, as is durability of the embedded conductors," notes the University of Minnesota in St. Paul's Lucy Dunne. "And as stretchable fabrics are increasingly common in everyday clothing, a conductor that isn't affected by stretching will improve both comfort and aesthetics."

From New Scientist
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