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May 13, 2015

Graphene breakthrough could help weave wearable clothing

Material could be used for textile GPS systems, biomedical monitoring, and personal security.

By CBR Staff Writer

Wearable technology is set to revolutionise the clothing industry, as researchers have created the world’s first truly electronic textile using graphene.

Graphene is a strong material, which is one atom thick and is capable of conducting electricity. Scientists are already planning to incorporate the material in wearable electronic devices.

The discovery is likely to transform the creation of wearable electronic devices with clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players that are expected to be durable and lightweight.

The finding is a part of an international collaborative research, which includes experts from the Institute for Systems Engineering and Computers, the Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, Microsystems and Nanotechnology, Universities of Lisbon and Aveiro in Portugal along with the Belgian Textile Research Centre.

The researchers have already developed a new technique to embed transparent, flexible graphene electrodes into fibres that are used in the textile industry.

University of Exeter professor Monica Craciun said: "The potential has been there for a number of years, and transparent and flexible electrodes are already widely used in plastics and glass, for example.

"The possibilities for its use are endless, including textile GPS systems, to biomedical monitoring, personal security or even communication tools for those who are sensory impaired. The only limits are really within our own imagination."

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Researchers created grapheme using chemical vapour deposition (CVD) onto copper foil using nanoCVD system, a compact CVD system for throughput grapheme and carbon nanotube synthesis.

The team also came up with a technique to transfer graphene from the copper foils to a polypropylene fiber, which is commonly used in the textile industry.

Research team head Dr Helena Alves said: "The concept of wearable technology is emerging, but so far having fully textile-embedded transparent and flexible technology is currently non-existing.

"Therefore, the development of processes and engineering for the integration of graphene in textiles would give rise to a new universe of commercial applications."

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