Chinese Scientists Develop Smart Fabric That Can Display Texts

As wearables like smartwatches and smart glasses continue to grow, scientists all over the world...

Photo credit: Fudan University

As wearables like smartwatches and smart glasses continue to grow, scientists all over the world are working hard to create the holy grail of wearables. Now, researchers at the Chinese Fudan University in Shanghai now seem to have made another breakthrough by developing items of clothing that can be used directly as screens. The researchers presented a piece of fabric around six meters long and twenty-five centimeters wide, which was provided with 500,000 light elements. In this way, information could be displayed directly on the textile. Even after crumpling, pulling, stretching 1,000 times and washing 100 times, the fabric was still shining.

Read more: Smart Clothes to Contribute Over $11 Bn to Fitness Wearable Revenue by 2025, Says Juniper Research

The project, led by Professor Peng Huisheng, required ten years of trial-and-error testing. In the end, the team managed to successfully develop transparent conductive weft fibers and luminescent warp fibers. When woven together, the two components form minuscule points of light similar to those on a digital display screen. Warp and weft are the two basic components used in weaving to turn thread or yarn into fabric. The researchers used copper and manganese in order to be able to differentiate between colors.

“Integrating displays into textiles offers exciting opportunities for smart electronic textiles — the ultimate goal of wearable technology, poised to change the way in which we interact with electronic devices,” the team wrote in the paper.

The possibilities are mind-boggling. It means that display screens could soon be ‘worn’ by the user. For example, bikers or polar explorers who can’t easily access a cell phone can ‘wear’ a navigation map and click on their clothes to display real-time location information.

Additionally, people with language barriers can use the dynamic sleeve display to communicate with others. It can also be implemented in the health care industry by collecting index data including brain waves.

Read more: Apple’s Patent Suggests Health Tracking via Smart Clothes

In the future, it should also be possible to convert sunlight into energy with the substance, to integrate a keyboard, and to connect the whole thing to the smartphone via Bluetooth. A type of self-sustaining portable computer.

Sam Draper
March 25, 2021

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