Smart clothing may not be far from reality

Smart clothing, which could monitor patients’ or athletes’ vital signs, provide a cloak of invisibility to military personnel or create flexible displays, may not be far from reality, according to a team from Nottingham Trent University’s Advanced Textile Research Group, Nottingham, U.K. Current smart clothing design involves inserting electronic modules into clothing after production, making applications inflexible to wear and impossible to wash. Nottingham Trent embeds sensors smaller than a pinhead into the heart of the yarn, producing a smart textile that remains tactile, flexible, machine washable and able to be tumble dried.

The Micro Electronic Textiles (MET) prototype garment integrates light-emitting diodes to showcase the technology, but “the technology can also result in variations of washable wearable computers that can monitor vital signs for well-being,” says Professor Tilak Dias, who leads the Advanced Textile Research Group. “Although the concept is technology led, its focus is around design accessibility.” Additional applications include clothing that monitors the wearer’s chemical reactions for medical assessment and illuminated malleable mood fabrics for fashion designers.

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