Multi functional interactive fibers and fabrics provide a new added value to the traditional textiles. It has the possibility of making our life healthier, safer and comfortable.
The fabrication of such multifunctional interactive fabrics represents a potentially important method for promoting progress, sustainable development and competitiveness in several disciplines, including:
• Health monitoring – Detecting and preventing diseases
• Rehabilitation – Restoring lost functions
• Health assistance – Compensating for disabilities to achieve a higher quality of life.
• Sports medicine – Assessing performance to prevent risks and improve training Techniques
• Telemedicine and Tele-operations – Supporting health professionals.
Multifunctional interactive fabrics can also be employed in emerging technology markets, such as:
• Wearable wireless communication systems and 60 Wearable electronics and photonics
• Localization and tracking of people
• Ergonomics – Comfort and safety
• Virtual reality – Simulation for professional training and entertainment.
The above applications can be achieved by integrating, sensing, actuating electronic and power functions within textiles.
Initially there were many attempts to design and build up wearable functional devices.Most of them have taken a limited approach. They are like transforming a textile material into a breadboard of sorts containing micro controllers, LED’S, piezoelectric transducers and so on .
More recently, attempts to construct chip packages directly by a textile process have been reported (Post and Orth, 1997)
Recent developments are in,
- Material processing
- Device design and
- System configuration has brought out SMART TEXTILES.
In fact, all components of interactive electromechanical systems (sensors, actuators, electronics and power sources) can be made of polymeric materials, to be woven directly in textile structures (sensing and actuating micro-fibers) or to be printed or sewn onto fabrics (flexible electronics). In particular, intrinsic sensing, actuating, dielectric or conductive properties, elasticity, lightness, flexibility and the relatively low cost of many electro active polymers make them potentially suitable materials for the realization of such systems.
Different fabrication methods have been used to confer piezoresistive properties to garments.
- The first technique involves coating conventional fabrics with a thin layer of polypyrrole.
- Another technique is based on the coating of yarns and fabrics with a mixture of rubber and carbon.
PPy is a conducting polymer that combines the good properties of elasticity with mechanical and thermal transduction. PPy-coated Lycra/cotton fabrics that work as strain sensors. The mechanical properties of the final product are affected by the speed of the coating process, the viscosity of the solution and the mutual permeability of materials. Sensors based on carbon loaded rubbers (CLR) realized in this way work as strain sensors.
These fabric sensors work well in the range of 1 to 13%. Aside from this range, the response is not univocal and the sensor cannot be used for monitoring kinematic variables.