Researchers Bring Us Closer to Wearable Electronic Clothing

© Cornell University

Way back in March of 2010, we told you about Cornell fiber scientist Juan Hinestroza and his push to coat cotton fibers with nanoparticles to make essentially electronic fabric. Well, he and his partners have come a step closer in making this a reality.

The team, made up of scientists from different disciplines from University of Bologna and University of Cagliari completed a study, which was published in a September issue of Organic Electronics, according to Cornell University. That study "describes a new technique in which conformal coatings -- which are those that follow cotton's irregular topography -- of gold nanoparticles along with semiconductive and conductive polymers were used to tailor the electronic behavior of natural cotton fibers."

In other words, the team was successful in making these nano-particle cotton threads really work. That means we may be one step closer to clothing that could sense body temperatures, track heart rates or blood pressure, and many other possible uses. Companies like Orange who have dreamed up t-shirts that charge batteries based on the sounds experienced by the wearer will be happy too.

"Creating transistors from cotton fibers brings a new perspective to the seamless integration of electronics and textiles, enabling the creation of wearable electronic devices," Hinestroza said in the Cornell article. "Perhaps one day we can even build computers out of cotton fibers in a similar way as khipus -- a recording device based on knots and used by the Inca empire in Peru."

The way that the cotton fibers are coated allow the fabric to stay flexible, and two kinds of active transistors -- organic electrochemical transistors and organic field effect transistors -- were successfully tested.

So who knows -- maybe wearable clothing that can charge batteries via movement, or keep us cooled off when it senses we're too hot is right around the corner. Of course, as we mentioned back in 2010, the safety of wearing nanoparticles is still something we'd like to know more about before we get too excited about charging t-shirts.

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Tags: Clothing | Concepts & Prototypes | Electronics | Gadgets

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