Your Jeans, T-shirt or even innerwear may soon tell you when you’re ill, say textile nanotechnologists who have found a way of making transistors from cotton fibers. Scientists at the Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the University of Cagliari in Italy were behind the breakthrough.
They say that the applications for their research could include carpets that know how many people have walked on them, fire fighting suits that detect airborne pollutants and clothing that can incorporate heart-rate and sweat monitoring sensors.
“We want to create a seamless interface between electronics and textiles,” the Daily Mail quoted Cornell University’s Juan Hinestroza as saying.
At first the idea of turning cotton clothing into a computerised circuit board doesn’t make sense, as the fabric is a natural insulator.The team got round this problem by applying a layer of gold nanoparticles to individual strands, along with the conductive polymer PEDOT.
They liken the process to dyeing. This process improved the conductivity of the cotton by a factor of about 1000, with the material still retaining its suppleness. However, it’s still no match for a silicon circuit, because the electrons don’t travel as fast.