Scientists have invented an electrically conductive coating that turns any fabric into a simple circuit.
In the not-too-distant future, our shirts, shorts and shoes will all be “smart,” embedded with subtle circuitry that might collect sunlight to power our smartphones or continuously monitor our vital signs like a full-body Fitbit. Researchers recently brought this wearable electronics future one step closer to reality with the creation of a stretchable, washable, non-metal coating that transforms any piece of clothing into a robust electrical conductor.
One of the biggest obstacles in wearable electronics is making smart clothing that people actually want to wear. That means cotton T-shirts that feel like cotton T-shirts — soft, lightweight and bendable, instead of stiff, heavy and threaded with metal wires.
A team of scientists and engineers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst may have solved the wearability problem by inventing an impossibly thin conductive coating that can be applied at room temperature to any textile or material — cotton, wool, silk, polyester, leather, or plastic — without altering the look and feel of the garment.