Waterproof textiles embedded with energy storage could soon be laser printed and made in minutes.
Scientists at RMIT University in Australia say they have developed a cost-efficient and scalable method for rapidly fabricating textiles that are embedded with energy storage devices.
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 just three minutes, the method can produce a 10x10cm smart textile patch that is waterproof, stretchable and readily integrated with energy harvesting technologies, the university said.
A paper in Scientific Reports explains how 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.
Potential applications for smart fabrics range 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.
“Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibres, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues,” explained Dr Litty Thekkakara, a researcher in RMIT’s School of Science and co-author of the study.
“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, it can store the energy needed to power an intelligent garment — and it can be made in minutes at large scale.
“By solving the energy storage-related challenges of e-textiles, we hope to power the next generation of wearable technology and intelligent clothing.”