Wearable Electronic science – hardware made soft

flexible_electronic.jpgTraditional electronic components are stiff and rigid which makes them not only ‘unwearable’ when integrated into textile but also ‘unusable’ as those components will be damaged when bended.

Much efforts are spend into softening traditional hardware to allow smart electronics enter new application areas to improve our life and lifestyle.

e-Textile technologies usually start out from the textile domain, tweaking and adapting textile technologies to add electronic properties to it.

The second line of research into softer hardware starts in the electronic arena to find ways to soften up the electronic components and materials.

Professor Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University and Professor John Rogers of the University of Illinois created stretchable circuits that could be used for wearable electronics for for circuits that can be implanted into the human body – at least is this the vision of the researchers.

My very simplified interpretation of how their stretchable technology works: creating a mesh (on a micron scale) of, in this case pixels for a light sensor, by connecting the pixels via wires.

The mesh is made from many of the same materials as a standard digital-camera sensor, but has the unique ability to conform to convoluted, irregular surfaces.

While a flat, planar sensor cannot flex without damaging its light-sensitive pixels, the new technology puts the strain on the wires, each flexing as much as 40 percent. Since the wires absorb the strain, the pixels are barely stressed, even when affixed to the retina-shaped housing of the new experimental camera.

This principle, maybe slightly modified and adapted to the textile environment, could certainly be a interesting step towards the integration of more complex electronic systems into clothing.

[source: National Science Foundation]

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