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Scientists create fabric batteries for wearable devices

The unwieldiness of traditional batteries has been a major factor holding back the development of wearable devices for health monitoring.
by TR Pakistan

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass) have developed a charge storing system that can be easily integrated into fabrics. According to a press release issued by UMass, this will allow device manufacturers to embroider a charge storing pattern onto any garment.

The research that led to the development of this technology was led by materials chemist Trisha. L. Andrew, who explains “batteries or other kinds of charge storage are still the limiting components for most portable, wearable, ingestible or flexible technologies. The devices tend to be some combination of too large, too heavy and not flexible.”

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The method developed by the team at UMass utilizes a micro-supercapacitor and combines vapor-coated conductive threads with a polymer film, plus a special sewing technique to create a flexible mesh of aligned electrodes on a textile backing.The resulting “embroidery” can store a very large amount of charge for its size, allowing to power wearable technology.

In comparison to prior work on fibre-based charge storing systems, the vapor coating process developed by Andrew and her team creates porous conducting polymer films on densely-twisted yarns, which can be easily swelled with electrolyte ions and maintain high charge storage capacity per unit length.

Textile scientists had also tended to steer away from vapor depositions because of technical difficulties and high costs.

Andrew adds that while researchers had minitiarized several different electronic circuit components, charge storing devices had been left behind. She and her team are currently working on incorporating embroidered charge storage arrays with e-textile sensors and low-power microprocessors to manufacture smart garments that can monitor a person’s gait and joint movement over the course of an average day.