Inkjet processing capacitor with e-inks. (Credit: Inhwan Kim)

Researchers have demonstrated that they can print layers of electrically conductive ink on polyester fabric to make an e-textile that could be used in the design of future wearable devices. Because the printing method can be completed at room temperature and in normal atmospheric conditions, researchers believe inkjet printing could offer a simpler and more effective method of manufacturing electronic textiles, also known as e-textiles.

The researchers used a FUJIFILM Dimatix inkjet printer to create a durable and flexible e-textile material, what they did to reliably create the e-textile, and its properties. Part of their challenge was to find the right composition of materials so that the liquid ink would not seep through the porous surface of the textile materials and lose its ability to conduct electricity.

They created the e-textile by printing layers of electrically conductive silver ink like a sandwich around layers of two liquid materials, which acted as insulators. They printed those sandwich layers on top of a woven polyester fabric. After they printed the layers of silver ink and insulating materials — made of urethane-acrylate, and poly(4-vinylphenol) — they monitored the surface of the material using a microscope. They found that the chemical properties of the insulating materials, as well as of the textile yarns, were important to maintaining the ability of the liquid silver ink to conduct electricity and to prevent it from penetrating through the porous fabric.

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