Wearable, Stretchable, and Washable, Smart Fabric Circuit Boards

March 15, 2016

While we are still getting used to wearable technology like smart watches, fitness trackers, smart glasses, etc., scientists have already taken numerous steps ahead. Researchers have developed a fabric circuit board (FCB) with computerized knitting technology. This fabric circuit board has been engineered with an integrated copper wiring and circuitry. It can be worn, flexed, stretched, and even washed without losing its electrical integrity. Also, it can be shot at with a real bullet under a bulletproof vest. The fabric and electric circuit can withstand the shock without losing any functionality. All these features make it ideal for futuristic wearable electronic applications. Making circuit boards that are more durable and versatile than those currently available can propel the development of new types of products. Imagine wearable devices that are integrated into our clothes, smartphones that don’t break, tougher and smarter gear for police and military, etc. In order to bring this to reality, scientists all over the globe have been trying to create new materials.  

Paving the Way for Futuristic Wearable Technology

In the latest effort, a couple of researchers in Hong Kong used computerized knitting technology to combine a fibrous metallic material having electrical conductivity with normal fabric materials. Moreover, the new knitting technology allows for weaving, knitting, stitching, and embroidery. The outcome of this is a three-dimensional FCB that can be:
  • Stretched and Flexed
  • Twisted and Used Over and Over
  • Shot By a Bullet (Under a Bulletproof Vest)
  • Washed In a Washing Machine and Dried in a Dryer

Technical Attributes of the Fabric Circuit Board (FCB)

The FCB directs electricity from one part of the material to another. Thus, discrete electronic components can be electrically connected within a garment. Also, the FCB can be produced as single, double, and multiple layered structures, like traditional PCBs. The FCBs exhibit outstanding electrical stability and exhibit less than 1% relative resistance.  

Potential Applications of the FCB Material

The researchers claim that their FCBs can be used
  • As solar energy collectors
  • As intelligent and durable next-gen military suits
  • To create complete garments, such as a shirt and vests
  • As a multiple sensory device for recording heart rate, heat, perspiration, etc.
With such potential, it can be said that, in a near future we all will be wearing or using this innovative FCB in numerous possible ways.

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