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Researchers Develop Textile for Light-Emitting Apparel

Photo: Courtesy of the Institute of Physics
Photo: Courtesy of the Institute of Physics

Umea University in Sweden just made a wearable technology breakthrough.

Researchers developed a flexible, lightweight and low-cost textile that can be used in light-emitting clothing, as well as buildings and signs, according to a paper published in the Flexible and Printed Electronics journal.

“The attractive form factor of textiles, notably their characteristic high flexibility and low weight, distinguishes these e-textiles from other electronic device architectures, and it is anticipated that it will pave the way for a plethora of highly desired wearable applications,” according to the researchers. “This is also a key reason as to why the market for e-textiles is projected to reach $3 billion in 2026.”

Currently, the most popular light-emitting device technology is organic light-emitting diode (OLED), which although flexible and transparent, requires a complicated and expensive fabrication process. OLED fabrication uses costly vacuum technology and it also depends on the fault-sensitive deposition of thin layers.

Unlike the OLED fabrication process, the LEC fabrication process provides textiles with illuminative abilities without much expense or time. Instead of vacuum technology, LEC is fabricated from only solution-processable materials, which are compatible with low-cost light sources.

The new textile emits bright yellow light equally for more than 180 hours, which is made possible by a special process. Polymer fibers and woven silver-coated copper wires are put together in a polymer matrix, which establishes a fabric electrode. This transparent material is then coated with a light-emitting electrochemical cell (LEC).

LEC process results demonstrated that lightweight, flexible emissive textiles deliver uniform light emission because of the fabric-based electrode and LEC electrochemical doping. These emissive textiles display low turn-on light voltage and result in high maximum brightness, good efficiency and good stability.