Electronics woven into clothes we wear may be the next big thing when it comes to extension of our digital lives. This innovation in smart garments would also gather biometric data or even lend superhuman senses to the wearer.
Versions incorporating wearable computing tech have to be hardy as the old-fashioned textiles present today are already the result of centuries of innovation. So, from wash-and-fold to sweaty workouts to long-lasting clothes, smart garments will have to be resilient.
Creating conductive wires, which can carry current between components without breaking down over a period of times as it flexes, twists and gets wet, has always been a key challenge in a smart garment. Inspired by the capillaries in your cardiovascular system, Chinese scientists now apparently, have invented a new kind of self-assembling nanowire.
Silver-based wiring that’s cheap to make and may lead to more comfortable and durable smart textiles than earlier, has been explained by new research that is published in the journal ‘Nano’ by researchers at the Chinese Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
A way to manufacture the tiny wires with ease was discovered by the engineers who were behind this silver fibre. The scientists concocted a silver-based solution that automatically soaks into tube-like fibres, drawing into the tube like blood into a capillary. This was in place of laboriously crafting the tiny wires that transport electricity throughout their fabric. As per the research, the solution leaves behind flexible, durable, and highly-conductive silver nanowires as it evaporates. These wires and withstand a lot more abuse without breaking compared to traditional copper wires. Hence, a future with smart clothes is foreseen that would survive daily wear and tear or possibly even invisibility cloaks or water-harvesting suit from ‘Dune’.
This research though, is at the proof-of-concept stage still, just like several other smart textile projects and very few efforts to integrate the tech into clothing have taken off for all the progress made by scientists.
Yet, it seems there is a genuine demand for this futuristic clothing as the researchers, makers and even hackers as well as sci-fi writers have been quite consistent and aggressive about imagining smart garments.