Traditionally, textiles were materials made up of natural animal and plant fibers. As technological advancements occurred, synthetic fibers were introduced, which were considered more versatile and stronger. Today, the world has reached a point where the fibers that run-in smartphones and relay data are woven in textile clothes; thus, boosting new opportunities in the Smart Textile Market. Such garments are advantageous as they are adaptive, which means that they can change in accordance with the environment.
Currently, these textiles are available in two forms. One is aesthetic, smart textiles that use technology for fashion purposes. The other is performance-enhancing textiles that cater to human functions such as monitoring body temperature or changing a person's breathability while he is jogging.
In recent research, engineers have developed a highly resilient and ultra-sensitive sensor that can be woven in textiles or robotic systems. Soft strain gauges that are currently available have very sensitive sensors, but they are also extremely fragile. Hence, a material with a balance between highly sensitive sensors and strong sensors need to be invented. In answer to this problem, the researchers have designed a pattern known as serpentine meander, which has sharp ups and downs, which resembles a slithering snake. These patterned carbon fibers are then put in between two pre – strained elastic substrates making the sensors sensitive and resilient.
This design is inspired by a Slinky, a solid cylinder made up of rigid metal, but when it is put into a spiral pattern, it becomes stretchable. Similarly, the scientists also used carbon fibers that are considered rigid bulk material and patterned them to become stretchable.
The electrical conductivity of sensors changes when the patterned carbon fiber’s edges come in contact with each other. This replicates the way a slinky’s spirals come out of contact with each other when it is pulled at both ends. The sensors in this are highly sensitive, making the process happen even when a small amount of strain is put on it.
Additionally, these sensors do not require special manufacturing techniques, in fact, even a cleanroom is unnecessary as can be made by using any conductive material. But their counterparts, which are highly sensible stretchable sensors, need exotic materials such as silicon or gold nano- wires.
These newly made sensors, while being highly sensitive and resilient, also have another advantage. The aspect that differentiates this technology is that it has a meagre cost in the form of input material and assembly methods.
A sleeve made up of this material would have various advantages like virtual reality simulation, helping in the clinical diagnosis of diseases like Parkinson’s disease, etc.
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