The 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 scaleable method for rapidly fabricating textiles that are embedded with energy storage devices.
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.
The growing smart fabrics industry has diverse applications in wearable devices for the consumer, health care and defence sectors -- from monitoring vital signs of patients, to tracking the location and health status of soldiers in the field, and monitoring pilots or drivers for fatigue.