Researchers at the National Graphene Institute have created a method to produce scalable graphene-based yarn. E-textiles have great potential for sportswear, healthcare, aerospace, and fitness applications. Hence, their focus by researchers across the globe.
The National Graphene Institute is a research institute at the University of Manchester in England.
Researchers say that graphene is ideal for these applications because of its flexibility and high conductivity. The material is just one-atom thick, which means that every atom is exposed to the environment. This allows it to sense any change that occurs in its surroundings, making the material ideal for sensors.
The recent wireless revolution has brought about a renaissance in smart wearable textiles. Innovation and miniaturization have also helped their rebirth.
Integrating textile-based sensors into garments in the manufacturing process is still time-consuming and complex. It is also expensive. We are still using non-biodegradable, unstable, metallic conductive materials.
A process that can produce tonnes of conductive graphene-based yarn
Researchers from the National Graphene Institute developed a process that has the potential to produce tonnes of conductive graphene-based yarn. It is possible to do this using current textile machinery without any addition to production costs.
The researchers wrote about their work in the journal ACS NANO (citation below).
The graphene-based yarn is also flexible, cheap, biodegradable, and washable.
It is possible to integrate such sensors to low-powered Bluetooth or self-powered RFID to transmit data wirelessly to mobile devices. RFID stands for Radio-Frequency IDentification.
“One hindrance to the advancement of wearable e-textiles has been the bulky components required to power them.”
“Previously it has also been difficult to incorporate these components without compromising the properties or comfort of the material, which has seen the rise of personal smart devices such as fitness watches.”
Rapid and ultra-fast production process
Co-lead author, Dr. Shaila Afroj, who was studying for her Ph.D. at the time, said:
“To introduce a new exciting material such as graphene to very traditional and well-established textile industry, the greatest challenge is the scalability of the manufacturing process. Here we overcome this challenge by producing graphene materials and graphene-based textiles using a rapid and ultra-fast production process.”
“Our reported technology to produce a thousand kilograms of graphene-based yarn in an hour is a significant breakthrough for the textile industry.”
Co-lead author, Dr. Nazmul Karim, Knowledge Exchange Fellow (Graphene) from the National Graphene Institute, said:
“High-performance clothing is going through a transformation currently, thanks to recent innovations in textiles. There has been growing interests from the textile community into utilizing excellent and multifunctional properties of graphene for smart and functional clothing applications.”
“We believe our ultra-fast production process for graphene-based textiles would be an important step towards realizing next-generation high-performance clothing.”
“Engineering Graphene Flakes for Wearable Textile Sensors via Highly Scalable and Ultrafast Yarn Dyeing Technique,” Shaila Afroj, Nazmul Karim, Zihao Wang, Sirui Tan, Pei He, Matthew Holwill, Davit Ghazaryan, Anura Fernando, and Kostya S. Novoselov. ACS NANO, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.9b00319. Publication Date (Web): February 28, 2019. Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society.