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Wearable, flexible battery developments

January 30th, 2014 / By: / What's New?

Smart textiles containing electronic materials have been talked about for more than a decade. The lack of textile characteristics, such as drapability and wash durability, has deterred the greater market penetration of electronic textiles. New research endeavors to overcome these practical difficulties are underway.

A team of scientists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) report in a recent issue of Nanoletters advancements in textile battery structures that exhibit comparable electrochemical properties with metal foil cells and at the same time have features of textiles. KAIST scientists coated nickel on woven polyester fabrics using an electroless deposition method. This approach enabled them to have folding-unfolding capability enhancing the wearability of the material.

These electronic textiles performed better than aluminum foiled batteries where the battery layer started to disintegrate after a single folding and unfolding activity. Textile structure, which is three dimensional (3D) in nature, seems to be the key in providing the necessary mechanical robustness and drapability needed. The scientists report that 3D textile structures developed could withstand a hundred mechanical folding and unfolding cycles.

The new findings from the KAIST scientists show that the basic current collector structure (textile fabrics) play an important role in the development of wearable textile batteries. Additionally, the coating technique employed to provide electrochemical characteristics to base textiles plays a significant part.

Although these new developments push electronic textiles to the next level, the field still offers significant challenges with regard to wider acceptability as day-to-day textile materials owing to cost and performance issues.

Sheshadri Ramkumar is professor at Texas Tech University, Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Lab.