In various fields, particularly healthcare, electronic textiles are offering revolutionary new opportunities. But they need to be produced from renewable and natural materials to become sustainable. Researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology have created a cellulose thread that can offer huge potential as a material for electronic textiles. In the production process, it also uses non-toxic, renewable, and natural materials.
A doctoral student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, Sozan Darabi said that in our daily lives, miniature, wearable, electronic gadgets are more common. But at present, they depend on rare, or sometimes toxic, materials which a result lead to the build-up of electronic waste. In electronic textiles, there is a need for organic and renewable materials.
For several years, Darabi has been working with electrically conductive fibers for electronic textile along with Anja Lund who is also a researcher in the same group. Initially, they focus on silk but now they have shifted their research to cellulose.
Using a standard household sewing machine, they have sewn the electrically conductive cellulose threads into fabric. A thermoelectric textile is developed by the researcher that produces a small amount of electricity when heated on one side i.e. coming in contact with a person’s body heat.
There are 2 electrically conductive yarns, dark yarn is the cellulose yarn and the lighter one is a commercially available silver-plated yarn. In a special way, the researchers have sewn the 2 threads separately into the fabric giving it thermoelectric properties.
the textile can generate around 0.2 microwatts of electricity at a temperature difference of 37°C. Darabai said that garments with built-in electronic, smart functions, can be made from the cellulosic thread which will utilize non-toxic, renewable, and natural materials.
With the help of co-authors from Aalto University in Finland, the researchers have developed the production process for the cellulose thread. by dyeing it with an electrically conductive polymeric material, in a subsequent process, the Chalmers researchers made the thread conductive.
These electronic textiles could improve our lives in several ways especially in healthcare where functions like monitoring, regulating, and measuring various health metrics. The cellulose thread is a renewable and non-toxic electrically conductive material that can handle at least five washes without losing its conductivity. The researcher said that in the textile industry where sustainable raw materials play a vital part, the electrically conductive cellulose threads can also play a significant role.
One of the research leaders and a professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, Christian Müller said that cellulose is a fantastic material that can be sustainably extracted and recycled, its application will be increasing in the future. When products are made using uniform material or as few materials as possible, the recycling process becomes easier and more effective. This results in another perspective where cellulose thread is can be used for the development of e-textiles.
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