Next-generation of waterproof smart fabrics will be laser printed and made in minutes. That’s the future imagined by the researchers behind new e-textile technology. Scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cost-efficient and scalable method for rapidly fabricating textiles that are embedded with energy storage devices.
It also opens the possibility for faster roll-to-roll fabrication, with the use of advanced laser printing based on multifocal fabrication and machine learning techniques.
In just three minutes, the method can produce a 10x10cm smart textile patch that’s waterproof, stretchable and readily integrated with energy harvesting technologies.
The technology enables graphene supercapacitors – powerful and long-lasting energy storage devices that are easily combined with solar or other sources of power – to be laser printed directly onto textiles.
In a proof-of-concept, the researchers connected the supercapacitor with a solar cell, delivering an efficient, washable and self-powering smart fabric that overcomes the key drawbacks of existing e-textile energy storage technologies.
Dr. Litty Thekkakara, a Researcher in RMIT’s School of Science, said, “Smart textiles with built-in sensing, wireless communication or health monitoring technology called for robust and reliable energy solutions.”
“Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibers, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues,” Thekkakara said.
These electronic components can also suffer short-circuits and mechanical failure when they come into contact with sweat or with moisture from the environment.
“Our graphene-based supercapacitor is not only fully washable, but it can also store the energy needed to power an intelligent garment — and it can be made in minutes at large scale,” Thekkakara added.
The researchers have applied for a patent for the new technology, which was developed with support from RMIT Seed Fund and Design Hub project grants.