Innovative Smart Materials for Wearable Electronics

R. PERERA,
EY Technologies, Division of Pascale Industries, Inc., Fall River, MA, USA

Wearable electronics made of integrated smart fibers are relatively new to the economy and can create high value-added opportunities. These materials play an important role in the development of electrical and electronic devices in which flexibility and rollability are of importance.
Insulated micro conductors, which can be served as electrical or data conduits, can be integrated into the flexible substrates and electrical components can be soldered directly onto the substrate. Recently washable micro conductors and connectors have been developed for wearable military applications such as chemical and bio-threat sensors, wound positioning vests, body-borne communication, pressure sensing/guiding patches for parachutes, and wearable global positioning antennas that map soldiers’ whereabouts. Micro conductors based flexible electronics are also being considered in consumer markets.

GPS driven shirt for blinds, MP3 player incorporated musical jackets, bodily functions monitoring smart garments, fashionable cloths, and heated jackets have already been successfully tested but not commercialized due to the lack of washable micro conductors.

Conductors based on metallized polymers, stainless steel or titanium filaments, and carbon nano tubes have been tested but none of them are suitable for washable electronics due to their price, health hazard, low conductivity, or solderability.

Recently EY Technologies together with U.S. Army developed insulated micro conductors (iCon) that are truly flexible, solderble, wearable, and washable. These insulated 25-50 micron conductors are about 4 times smaller than human hair and is only few times resistive than pure gold providing maximum conductivity at minimum power usage. These finer diameter conductors are less prone to bending failures; a major concern in flexible applications. The use of non toxic, ductile metals also minimize fatigue while insulating polymers provide the strength to the conductor.

The innovative filaments can be used on commercial equipment and expect to open up new era to numerous intelligent flexible products with improved durability, washability and wearability.

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