Graphene, E-textiles, and the Future of FashionMar 27, 2020 | ACS MATERIAL, LLC
Graphene is the strongest, thinnest, lightest material known. With the thickness of a single atom, remarkable electrical and thermal conductivity, and strength greater than steel, scientists and researchers across the globe are enthusiastically searching for ways to integrate this wonder material into twenty-first century textiles. To get a handle on the potential graphene offers for the fashion industry, it’s important to first understand the distinctions between wearables, smart clothing, and e-textiles.
Wearables and smart clothing are physical devices with sensors that provide feedback to you or another device, such as a smartphone. These devices may be distinct devices such as watches, headphones, and glasses, or they may be subtle electronic circuits and sensors integrated into the structure of the garment. While wearable and smart clothing technology is phenomenally sophisticated and is improving every day, reliance on rigid or semi-rigid components mounted onto textiles is less than ideal. Many irritate the skin, can’t withstand washing, or are uncomfortable to wear. Textiles that include these types of devices are expensive to produce and aren’t biodegradable.
E-textiles, however, don’t require separate and distinct “smarts” to function; the smart technology is actually within the fabric itself and feedback happens on the spot without involving any additional smart devices. Heaters, lights, sensors, and other electronics are printed onto the surface of the fabric or are actually part of the fibers themselves. The result: garments that are electronically responsive. E-textiles flex, stretch, and breathe beautifully. The trick to e-textiles is to find production methods and materials that function at a high level while, at the same time, are also renewable and inexpensive.
The Future of E-Textiles is Graphene
The solution to the e-textile mystery is graphene. Graphene promises to overcome all the drawbacks of current smart clothing technology. The race is on to find ways to seamlessly integrate graphene into textiles of all kinds. Consider the following exciting possibilities:
- Jackets and other warm weather gear made with thermally conductive graphene would keep the wearer at a comfortable temperature, even during intense physical activity
- Fibers treated with a coating of graphene oxides are sensitive to the NO2 found in methane gases. Clothing made of fibers treated in this manner could act as a gas sensor, alerting firefighters to the condition of the air on contact.
- Similarly treated fibers in clothing can accurately capture electrical resistance changes that occur in the fabric during movement. Simple, comfortable pieces can capture all the details of the wearer’s movements, resulting in precise measurements on everything, from flexing, stretching, relaxing, and twisting. These details can help improve a golfer’s swing, a runner’s gait, or a swimmer’s stroke.
- Clothing integrated with graphene can change color based on breathing, heat up based on body temperature, or even self-clean.
- Charge your phone in your pocket using absorbed environmental energy with clothes containing graphene.
- Graphene demonstrates strong cytotoxicity towards bacteria. Medical personnel wearing graphene-treated clothing would help prevent the spreading of harmful bacteria to patients.
- Graphene sensors in clothing can measure heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and a host of other bio measurements.
It’s really quite impossible to imagine all the amazing things graphene e-textiles can make possible. Best of all, graphene textiles can do all this and more while still being antibacterial, breathable, odor resistant, hypoallergenic, and completely renewable.
Welcome to the future. Welcome to graphene.
ACS Material provides high-quality CVD graphene to researchers and engineers around the world who are searching for ways to change the world with graphene. Visit us online today for more information about our graphene series.