For a seamless integration of electronic into clothing solutions have to be found that conform with the surrounding material, in the case of Wearable Electronic this means with textiles.
Most textiles are stretchable, at least to a certain extend. If the textiles would not stretch the wearing comfort would be very limited. The clothing will not follow our bodies movement and look stiff if not limiting our movement at all.
Bendable electronics can be found as commercial products but they represent only a first step into the ‘right’ direction. Bendable electronic can follow curves like but do not follow properly the movement of clothing which requires often a certain degree of stretching of the material.
A recently published work by a group of Scientist at the University of Illinois promises flexible silicon and plastic circuits that can potentially be used for integration into clothing. This technology might open the doors for new Wearable Electronic (and other) applications that have not been possible without it.
Making electronic substrates thin makes it bendable, just as a piece of paper is bendable whereas a piece of wood is not,” says John Rogers who is heading the team.
To make elastic circuits, the team binds the silicon wiring to a thin sheet of rubbery plastic that has been stretched out to be approximately 15% wider and longer than it was before.
After applying the silicon circuit to the stretched material it is released and the rubber like material shrinks back to it’s original shape. The circuit forms a wave shape profile (see photo above).
According to the Scientists the performance of the circuit is completely unaffected by this process and in this way produced circuits can be stretched up to the 15%.
For a seamless integration of electronic into clothing it is essential that ‘conventional’ electronic needs to be bendable AND stretchable otherwise the integration would be to cumbersome and rejected by the wearer.
This new development will certainly enrich the ‘tool box’ of future Wearable Electronic Fashion designer and e-Textile engineers.