Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst have created something that is a breakthrough in powering wearable electronics. The team has figured out a way to create a fabric alternative to batteries for wearable devices. The technique involves embroidering a charge-storing pattern onto any garment.
The method the team devised uses a micro-supercapacitor and vapor-coated conductive threads with a polymer film. A unique sewing technique creates a flexible mesh of aligned electrodes on a textile backing resulting in a solid-state device with a high capability of storing electric charge for its size. The characteristics of the energy storage device allow it to power wearable biosensors.
Researchers on the project say that while electronic circuit components have been miniaturized remarkably over the years, the same miniaturization in charge-storing devices hasn’t happened. The new technique the researchers have devised bring that needed miniaturization to the charge-storage devices and shows that they can embroider a charge-storing pattern onto any garment using the special thread and process they have created.
Textile scientists have tried this vapor deposition process before, but it was too expensive and technically challenging to use at a large scale. The UMass Amherst team says that their research has proven that vapor deposition can scale up and remain cost-effective.
The vapor coating process the team uses creates a porous conducting polymer film on densely-twisted yarns that can be swelled with electrolyte ions and maintain a high charge storage capacity per unit length. Currently, the scientists are working on integrating this new fabric charge storage device into wearable smart garments that use e-textile sensors and low-power microprocessors to monitor a person’s gait and joint movements.