Wearable technology, particularly smart textiles, is exploding in popularity in both the consumer and research spaces, resulting in a lot of developments and innovations in recent years. This is due to the increasing demand for wearable electronics from industries such as medical, healthcare, sport, fashion, entertainment, military and protection.
In smart textiles, interaction with the surrounding environment or the user is often prerequisite to the use of sensors and functional textiles, which usually should have electrically conductive properties. Such textiles are also referred to as e-textiles. However, most of the electronic sensors that detect and transmit data from wearables are made of hard, inflexible materials that can restrict both the wearer's natural movements and the accuracy of the data collected. Accordingly, consumers still approach smart textiles with caution largely because they contain fragile or brittle metal-based materials, which can lead to lower efficiency or even breakage. In the research and development field, the general trend is to progressively integrate more and more electrical components into textile structures at the polymer and fibre level instead of using textiles only as a substrate for attaching sensors, output devices, and printed circuit boards.
This report focuses on conductive textile materials and starts with an introduction to smart textiles and conductive textiles, followed by a summary of the global conductive textiles market forecast. Moreover, various approaches to produce electrically conductive textiles for smart textiles needs are discussed, including metallised textiles, conductive polymer-based textiles and nanocarbon based conductive textiles. Traditional and new approaches for metallisation of textiles as well as new methods for producing conductive fabrics using conductive polymers and the mechanism of their conductivity are presented. Additionally, a perspective towards seamless integration of other conductive novel materials, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes (CNTs), into textiles are reported on.
In the second part of this report, some recent smart textiles developments using the above mentioned technologies, in applications from healthcare and safety to sport and fitness, including fabrics that can sense human motion and generate power in response or smart gloves which monitor Parkinson's disease patients are discussed. Furthermore, some of the commercial manufacturers of conductive textiles, including metallised textiles, conductive polymeric textiles, conductive inks and adhesives as well as smart clothing and device manufacturers are introduced.
1.1. Wearable computers vs smart textile
1.3. Conductive textiles market
2. Conductive textiles technology
2.1. First generation: Intrinsically conductive material-based textiles
2.1.1. Metallic fibre/yarns (metallisation of textiles)
2.1.2. Carbon-based textiles
2.2. Second generation: Conductive polymer-based textiles
2.2.1. Intrinsically conductive polymers
2.2.2. Mechanism of conductivity and production of conductive polymers
2.2.3. Textile processing of conductive polymers
2.2.4. Extrinsically conductive polymers
2.2.5. Textile developments
2.3. Third generation: Nanocarbon- based conductive textiles
2.3.1. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs)
2.3.3. Other non-carbon 2D materials
2.3.4. Textile processing
3. Application areas and innovations
3.1. Health, safety and medical
3.2. Sport and fitness
5. Summary and outlook
List of Figures
Figure 1. Stimuli that can trigger smart behaviour in textiles
Figure 2. Conductivity range of polymers compared to other materials
List of Tables
Table 1. A list of conductive polymers and their abbreviations
Table 2. Conductivity and properties of conductive polymers commonly used for textiles
Table 3. Textile yarns coated with conductive polymers and their coating technique
Table 4. Example of graphene/polymer fibres, their spinning process and potential applications
Table 5. List of conductive textiles and smart textiles companies
- 3M Company
- AiQ Smart Clothing
- Applied Nanotech, Inc.
- Coatex Industries
- DuPont Microcircuit Materials
- eMEI Group
- Hitek Electronic Materials Ltd.
- Intelligent Clothing Ltd.
- Interactive Wear AG.
- Jarden Applied Materials
- KGS Diamond
- Kolon Sport
- Less EMF
- Marktek Inc.
- Metal Textiles
- Seiren Co. Ltd.
- Shieldex by Statex
- Sprint Metal Company
- Syscom Advanced Materials
- Textronic Inc.
- V Technical Textiles Inc
- Vorbeck Materials Corp.
- Wujiang City Yuzhen Textile Co. Ltd.