E-Textiles Control Home Appliances with the Swipe of a Finger

Electronic textiles could allow a person to control household appliances or computers from a distance simply by touching a wristband or other item of clothing - something that could be particularly helpful for those with limited mobility. Now researchers, reporting in ACS Nano, have developed a new type of e-textile that is self-powered, highly sensitive and washable.


Video is produced by the American Chemical Society.

E-textiles are not new, but most existing versions have poor air permeability, can't be laundered or are too costly or complex to mass-produce. Jiaona Wang, Hengyu Guo, Congju Li and coworkers wanted to develop an E-textile that overcomes all of these limitations and is highly sensitive to human touch.

The researchers made a self-powered triboelectric nanogenerator by depositing an electrode array of conductive carbon nanotubes on nylon fabric. To make the E-textile washable, they incorporated polyurethane into the carbon nanotube ink, which made the nanotubes firmly adhere to the fabric. They covered the array with a piece of silk and fashioned the textile into a wristband. When swiped with a finger in different patterns, the E-textile generated electrical signals that were coupled to computers to control programs, or to household objects to turn on lights, a fan or a microwave from across the room. The E-textile is breathable for human skin, washable and inexpensive to produce on a large scale, the researchers say.

Ran Cao, Xianjie Pu, Xinyu Du, Wei Yang, Jiaona Wang, Hengyu Guo, Shuyu Zhao, Zuqing Yuan, Chi Zhang, Congju Li, Zhong Lin Wang.
Screen-Printed Washable Electronic Textiles as Self-Powered Touch/Gesture Tribo-Sensors for Intelligent Human-Machine Interaction.
ACS Nano, 2018, 12 (6), pp 5190-5196. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.8b02477.

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