Light Emitting Textiles

Researchers at the University of Manchester recently invented a novel technology which uses a battery-powered textile yarn in order to make glowing garments. When incorporated into clothing, the electroluminescent yarns emits light which is powered by a battery, thus providing a safe way for cyclists, joggers and pedestrians to go about their daily routine without fearing not being seen, even on the darkest winter night.

So far, products used to provide personal safety in dark environments suffered the disadvantage of being dependant on an external source of light, such as car headlights. As a result, there was a greater possibility of not being seen until the very last minute.

The new development by the William Lee Innovation Centre (WLIC) of the University of Manchester, has been based on thin film electroluminescent technology. The innovative electroluminescent (EL) yarn emits light when an electric current passes through it. The conductive core yarn is coated with electroluminescent ink. An outer conductive yarn is wrapped around the protective transparent encapsulation so that when powered, the contact points between the inner and outer yarns glow. An illustration is available here.

Dr Tilak Dias, Head of the WLIC, admits that although the new EL yarn is more flexible than current optical fibers being used within fabrics, it is still not as flexible as other conventional yarns. Still, an advantage of the EL yarn on other photoluminescent glow yarns is that it emits a greater amount of light.

In September, TFOT covered Philips’ invention of a light-emitting textile called Lumalive, consisting of a layered system containing flexible arrays of colored light-emitting diodes (LEDs). TFOT also recently covered new stretchable and washable electronic devices under development by Belgian researchers.

More information about the new EL yarn can be found on the University of Manchester’s website.

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