A single strand of fiber has the flexibility of cotton and the electric conductivity of a polymer, called polyaniline. The newly developed material showed good potential for wearable e-textiles. Researchers tested the fibers with a system that powered an LED light and another that sensed ammonia gas.

While more development is needed, the idea is to integrate fibers like these into apparel as sensor patches with flexible circuits. Applications include health monitoring or exercise shirts that can do more than current fitness monitors.

While intrinsically conductive, polyaniline is brittle and by itself, cannot be made into a fiber for textiles. To solve this, the researchers dissolved cotton cellulose from recycled T-shirts into a solution and the conductive polymer into another separate solution. These two solutions were then merged together side by side, and the material was extruded to make one fiber.

The result showed good interfacial bonding, meaning the molecules from the different materials would stay together through stretching and bending. (Image credit: Dean Hare, WSU Photo Services)

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