Chinese University creates electronic textile with large display
March 30, 2021 - China
Scientists at Fudan University have created an electronic textile with a large-area display that could be used in communications, navigation and healthcare. The textile is flexible, breathable and durable, therefore, ideal material for practical uses. The textile has been produced by weaving conductive fibres and luminescent fibres together with cotton.
The work has been carried out by a team led by Huisheng Peng, a professor in the Department of Macromolecular Engineering at Fudan University. The research is published in the journal Nature.
Creating large displays integrated with functional systems that are flexible and durable when worn has been challenging. Conventional solid-state display materials are not readily compatible with textiles because they struggle to withstand the natural deformation that occurs when fabrics are worn and washed. This new design weaves conductive fibres and luminescent fibres together with cotton into a fabric display, and is shown to overcome this issue.
The team produced a display fabric that is 6 metres long and 25 centimetres wide that can be integrated with a touch-sensitive fabric keyboard and a fabric power supply (in this case, one that harvests solar energy).
There are various applications for the fabric, such as a navigation tool that displays an interactive map or a communications tool that can send or retrieve messages via a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone. The display is produced by illuminating units (electroluminescent units) that form where the conductive fibres and luminescent fibres meet at contact points in the woven fabric.
As the diameter of the light-emitting fibre can be precisely adjusted between 0.2 mm and 0.5 mm, clothing woven from this kind of fibre is ultra-fine and ultra-flexible, which can fit the irregular contour of the human body and can be as light and breathable as the ordinary fabric.
After 1,000 cycles of bending, stretching and pressing, the performance of the vast majority of electroluminescent units remained stable. In addition, the brightness of the electroluminescent units remained stable after 100 cycles of washing and drying. With the integration of more functionality, the scientists expect these “smart textiles” to shape the next generation of electronic communication tools.
Peng believes this invention can revolutionise communication and “help individuals with voice, speech or language difficulties to express themselves to others”. “We hope that woven-fibre materials will shape next-generation electronics by changing the way we interact with electronic devices,” Peng said.