The next generation of waterproof smart fabrics will be laser printed and made in minutes. That’s the future imagined by the RMIT University researchers behind a new e-textile technology. The team of scientists reported they have developed a cost-efficient and scaleable method for fabricating textiles embedded with energy storage devices.
In just three minutes, the method can produce a 10-by-10 centimeter patch that’s waterproof, stretchable and integrated with energy harvesting technologies, the team’s research says. The technology enables graphene supercapacitors to be laser printed directly onto textiles. In a proof-of-concept, the researchers connected the supercapacitor with a solar cell, resulting in a washable, self-powering smart fabric that may overcome some drawbacks of existing e-textile energy storage technologies.
“Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibers, can be cumbersome and heavy and can also have capacity issues,” said Dr. Litty Thekkakara, a researcher in RMIT’s School of Science. “Our graphene-based supercapacitor is not only fully washable, it can store the energy needed to power an intelligent garment, and it can be made in minutes at large scale,” Thekkakara said.
RMIT honorary professor and distinguished professor at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Min Gu, said the technology could enable real-time storage of renewable energies for e-textiles.
“It also opens the possibility for faster roll-to-roll fabrication, with the use of advanced laser printing based on multifocal fabrication and machine learning techniques,” Gu said.
The researchers have applied for a patent for the new technology, which was developed with support from RMIT Seed Fund and Design Hub project grants. The research is published in Scientific Reports. RMIT is a multi-sector university that strives for excellence in professional and vocational education, applied and innovative research, and engagement with industry and the community.