In the future when you upgrade your computer, you may also be upgrading your wardrobe as researchers create novel new textiles that pull double-duty as fabrics and electronics.
The integration of electronics into textiles is a burgeoning field of research that may soon enable smart fabrics and wearable electronics. Bringing this technology one step closer to fruition, Jin-Woo Han and Meyya Meyyappan at the Center for Nanotechnology at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have developed a new flexible memory fabric woven together from interlocking strands of copper and copper-oxide wires. At each juncture, or stitch along the fabric, a nanoscale dab of platinum is placed between the fibers. This "sandwich structure" at each crossing forms a resistive memory circuit. Resistive memory has received much attention due to the simplicity of its design.
As described in the AIP's journal AIP Advances, the copper-oxide fibers serve as the storage medium because they are able to change from an insulator to a conductor simply by applying a voltage. The copper wires and the platinum layers serve as the bottom and top electrodes, respectively. This design easily lends itself to textiles because it naturally forms a crossbar memory structure where the fibers intersect. The researchers developed a reversible, rewritable memory system that was able to retain information for more than 100 days.
In this proof-of-concept design, the copper wires were one millimeter thick, though smaller diameter wire would allow for an increase in memory density and a reduction in weight. In practical applications, e-textiles would need to integrate a battery or power generator, sensors, and a computational element, as well as a memory structure. Taken together, an e-textile could potentially detect biomarkers for various diseases, monitor vital signs of the elderly or individuals in hostile environments, and then transmit that information to doctors.
Materials provided by American Institute of Physics. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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