Stretchable and Washable Electronic Devices

Electronic devices with stretching and washing abilities may enhance their functionality and usability. Belgian researchers are currently working on what could be part of our daily wardrobe in the not too distant future.
 Led powered by inductive coil embedded in PDMS
Led powered by inductive coil
embedded in PDMS

To get the feeling, imagine an MP3 player or a cellular phone that is an integral part of your clothing and can be easily stretched, bent and washed along with the rest of the laundry. This type of electronic devices is exactly what a team of researchers from Gent University in Belgium led by Project Coordinator Jan Vanfleteren are currently developing in the framework of a project named SWEET (Stretchable and Washable Electronics for Embedding in Textiles).

In a paper recently published on the magazine IEEE (subscription needed) the researchers presented several configurations of stretchable electrical conductors. This was achieved by embedding a horseshoe-shaped conductor on a stretchable silicon film.

Another related project that the group is working on is named BioFlex. On this project the scientists have been looking into electronic devices and wiring that can be implanted inside the human body and then can be bended and stretched to adapt to deformations in the organs where they are implanted. Such a device must also be biologically compatible so that no damage will be caused to the human tissue.

Earlier this year, TFOT covered another smart textile technology that is already on sale. The technology developed by the German company WarmX includes tiny silver fibers woven into the knitted fabric and supplied with electricity by a small rechargeable battery, creating a warm feeling even when the temperature outside is very low.

 Meanders in non-stretched state and stretched up to 40%
Meanders in non-stretched
state and stretched up to 40%

More information on the Gent University stretchable and washable electronics project can be found on the University’s website.