Researchers at the National Graphene Institute (NGI) have created a method to produce scalable graphene-based yarn. Such e-textiles may have great potential for sportswear, healthcare, aerospace, and fitness applications, and so are attracting research attention worldwide.
Integrating textile-based sensors into garments in the manufacturing process is still time-consuming and complex. It is also expensive non-biodegradable, unstable, metallic conductive materials are still being used. Now, the NGI researchers have developed a process that has the potential to produce tonnes of conductive graphene-based yarn. It is possible to do this using current textile machinery without any addition to production costs. The produces graphene-based yarn is also said to be flexible, cheap, biodegradable, and washable.
It is possible to integrate such sensors to low-powered Bluetooth or self-powered RFID to transmit data wirelessly to mobile devices. According to a University of Manchester press release: “One hindrance to the advancement of wearable e-textiles has been the bulky components required to power them... Previously it has also been difficult to incorporate these components without compromising the properties or comfort of the material, which has seen the rise of personal smart devices such as fitness watches.”
Co-lead author, Dr. Shaila Afroj, who was studying for her PhD at the time, said: “To introduce a new exciting material such as graphene to a very traditional and well-established textile industry, the greatest challenge is the scalability of the manufacturing process. Here we overcome this challenge by producing graphene materials and graphene-based textiles using a rapid and ultra-fast production process.”
“Our reported technology to produce a thousand kilograms of graphene-based yarn in an hour is a significant breakthrough for the textile industry.”
Co-lead author, Dr Nazmul Karim, Knowledge Exchange Fellow (Graphene) from the National Graphene Institute, said: “High-performance clothing is going through a transformation currently, thanks to recent innovations in textiles. There has been growing interests from the textile community into utilizing excellent and multifunctional properties of graphene for smart and functional clothing applications.”
“We believe our ultra-fast production process for graphene-based textiles would be an important step towards realizing next-generation high-performance clothing.”