Imagine plugging a USB port into a piece of paper and turning it into a tablet. It may take a while, but researchers at North Carolina State University have followed these ideas to study how conductive nano coatings can be applied to simple textiles, such as woven cotton, or even a piece of paper.
"In general, conductive nano coatings are suitable for inorganic materials such as silicon. If we can find a way to apply them to textiles (cheap, flexible materials with deformed surface texture), it will mean a cost-effective way, which is a framework for improving current and future electronic equipment. "Jesse jur, the lead author of the paper, said he is an assistant Ph.D. in textile engineering, chemistry and science.
The so-called atomic layer deposition inorganic material coating technology is generally used in solar cells, sensors and microelectronics technology. Researchers envisage to apply this technology to the surface of textiles, such as woven cotton and non-woven polypropylene, and the same materials are used for reusable grocery bags. "Imagine coating textile fabrics, each fiber has the same nano thick coating, thousands of times thinner than human hair, which can be achieved by atomic deposition technology," jur said. This research was carried out in the laboratory of Gregory parson, Professor akcoa of chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in North Carolina. The results show that ordinary textile materials are used to make complex electronic equipment.
As part of their research, the researchers created a program to quantify the conductivity of conductive coatings on textile materials. At present, the standard for measuring conductivity is a four-point probe, with an ammeter between two probes and a voltmeter between the other two probes. However, these probes are too small to measure the most accurate readings of textile materials. In the paper, the researchers said they used new technology, using larger probes, to accurately measure the conductivity of nano coatings. The new system gives researchers a better understanding of how to turn coatings on textiles into conductive devices.
"We don't expect to make complex transistors out of cotton, but simple electronic devices can benefit from the lightweight flexibility of textile materials," explained jur. "Research like this has potential health and detection applications because we may initially embed cloth sensors in real materials that can track heart rate, body temperature, movement, and more in real time. To do this, you have to attach a wire harness to the entire fabric, making it bulky and uncomfortable to wear.
In the electronic world, the ideal is always smaller and lighter. If we can improve how to apply and measure the conductive coating method on textiles, we may move the needle of the coating equipment, which has the necessary conductivity, and also has all the benefits of natural textile materials for human beings.
The paper was published in the June issue of new functional materials. The research is funded by the United States Department of energy and the nonwovens cooperative research center.