Researchers have developed thin, light-emitting fibers capable of being woven into color-tunable textiles. Huisheng Peng of Fudan University, Shanghai, and colleagues found that a fiber-shaped PLEC (polymer light-emitting electrochemical cell) could be made by coating a thin steel wire with a layer of zinc oxide nanoparticles.
The fibers are around one millimeter thick and can be twisted together and woven into patterns in textiles. Unlike glass optical fibers, which guide light from one location to another, these metal–polymer–carbon fibers emit light from their entire surface with an electrical signal of a few volts.
When provided with a very small electrical signal, these textiles emit blue or yellow light; other colors could be available in the future. The researchers suggest the process could be scaled up to manufacture clothing that directly emits light.