…Skorobogatiy’s lab turned to the manufacturing process used to create the optical fibers that carry TV and Internet signals. The technique allowed the Canadian team to make new polymer-based fibers based on melting the preformed material to pull out a long, thin fiber shape.
Such fibers can conduct electric signals. Maksim Skorobogatiy and his colleagues wove conductive polymer fibers into a flexible touchpad that could act like a multitouch screen.
The researchers wove the fibers into an experimental touchpad that showed off partial multitouch capability similar to what smartphones or tablets possess. That work appeared in the January issue of the journal Smart Materials and Structures.
Next, they made flat sheets of batteries by combining typical lithium battery materials with thermoplastic binder material. Skorobogatiy’s lab cut the battery sheets into thin strips and wove the strips into typical clothing textiles, an achievement detailed in the January issue of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.
The technology of smart clothing may seem imminent, but psychological barriers remain because textile manufacturers are hesitant to work with completely new fibers. The Canadian researchers have begun working on toppling such barriers by providing fibers for designers to try out.
One big challenge remains: creating the soft textile version of the transistors at the heart of all modern devices. If Skorobogatiy’s lab can pull off that trick, they could enable extraordinary pieces of smart clothing that act like gadgets but easily fit in with ordinary wardrobes. “We’re moving toward a self-contained textile battery, electronics and sensors, all made with textile thread,” Skorobogatiy said. “At this point, we’re only missing the electronics.”