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Graphene impregnated cotton for wearable devices

Pic: Jiesheng Ren

A method for depositing graphene based inks onto cotton, developed by by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Jiangnan University, could enable the creation flexible and wearable electronics without the use of expensive and toxic processing steps.

In the process, developed by a team led by Dr Felice Torrisi at the Cambridge Graphene Centre, cotton textiles are impregnated with a graphene-based conductive ink.

According to the team, most current wearable technologies rely on rigid electronic components mounted on flexible materials. These can offer limited compatibility with the skin, can be damaged when washed and are uncomfortable to wear.

“Turning cotton fibres into functional electronic components can open an entirely new set of applications – from healthcare and wellbeing to the IoT,” said Dr Torrisi.

“Other conductive inks are made from precious metals, such as silver, which makes them expensive to produce and not sustainable, whereas graphene is cheap, environmentally-friendly and chemically compatible with cotton.”

Professor Chaoxia Wang of Jiangnan University noted: “This method will allow us to put electronic systems directly into clothes. It’s an incredible enabling technology for smart textiles.”

According to the researchers, a wearable strain sensor created using a graphene-coated smart cotton textile, has been shown to detect up to 500 motion cycles reliably after more than 10 washing machine cycles.

Graham Pitcher

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