Insulating thread gives safety boost to ‘smart textiles’

Researchers have found a way to prevent short circuits in yarns designed to store electrical energy, an advance that could aid the development of ‘smart textiles’.

insulating wire
Supercapacitor yarns integrated into a fabric to power LEDs Nanfei He

The North Carolina State University (NC State) team reported in: npj Flexible Electronics that they prevented short circuits in yarns that act as supercapacitors by wrapping the yarns with insulating wire. They also tested the strength and durability of the yarns to ensure they worked after going through knitting and weaving processes.

“A supercapacitor works like a battery, but in this case we’re working on a flexible battery in the form of a textile yarn that you could weave or knit into your T-shirt or sweater,” said Wei Gao, an associate professor of textile technology. , chemistry and science and a university faculty scientist at NC State. “In this study, we woven this yarn into a piece of fabric so it can store electrical energy, and eventually we want to use it to power all the electronic devices you need, whether it’s a sensor, a lamp, or even a cell.” is. phone.”


According to NC State, research on these so-called “yarn supercapacitors” shows promise, but developers face a consistent problem with their design because the yarn supercapacitors are more likely to short circuit as their length increases.

“Everyone is trying to make smart electronics that can be incorporated into dust or dust,” Gao said in a statement. “What we found is that if you try to make a supercapacitor yarn that is longer than 8 inches, this device can short out pretty easily.”

To solve this problem, the researchers tested what would happen if they wrapped the supercapacitor yarn electrodes with insulating wires. According to NC State, the idea was that the wires would act as a physical barrier, preventing the opposing electrodes from making contact with each other and preventing short circuits. They tested the performance of their device by connecting the electrodes to a power source and recording the device’s current response. They also tested how well the yarns could hold a load. They found that the yarns retain 90 percent of their original energy after being charged and discharged 10,000 times.

The researchers also tested their resistance to bending and stretching by weaving their yarn-shaped supercapacitors into a fabric.

“The yarns have to be flexible and strong enough so that when you bend, stretch and squeeze them, they keep their original electrical performance after all those mechanical deformations,” said lead author Nanfei He, a postdoctoral researcher in textile technology. chemistry and science at NC State. “The yarns all kept their original performance even after weaving and knitting.”

Abhishek Maheswari
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