Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory, Middlesex, UK, Electronics Interconnection group has developed a new method to produce conductive textiles. This new technique could make integrating electronics into all types of clothing simple and practical by enabling lightweight circuits to be printed directly onto complete garments.

Smart fabric connected to a power source conducting electrical charge through a LED (Credit: Roya Ashayer-Soltani)

The researchers developed the technique for chemically bonding a nano-silver layer onto fibers in a textile. They say that in their method the conductive path is applied by an additive method and can be patterned to form circuits. The silver is bound around individual fibers in each thread to give 100% coverage, with good adhesion and flexibility.

The nanosilver-coated fabric can be used in a wide range of applications, such as wound dressings, hygienic clothing, and medical applications where the presence of bacteria is hazardous. For example, it can be used to fabricate facemasks, surgical gloves, and military uniforms. Since the conductive pattern is incorporated within the textile, it ensures that sensors are repeatedly positioned in the same location on the body. This will lead to improved accuracy of the sensor by preventing sensor misplacement.

It also adds a negligible weight and thickness to the clothes and multiple electronic circuitry patterns can be placed on a garment in a single setup. As an example, wireless wearable sensors for home monitoring of physiological data of a heart could, for instance, overcome shortcomings of currently available technology such as“ Holter monitoring” and significantly improve the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.