ultrathinthread100656052orig

Internet of pants? This ultrathin thread could make your clothes part of the IoT

Your clothes could one day monitor your fitness levels or boost your smartphone reception thanks to a new technique that uses ultrathin electronic thread to embroider circuits into fabric.

Measuring just 0.1 mm in diameter, the thread comprises seven filaments made of copper and silver. Using it, researchers at Ohio State University have found a way to embroider circuits into fabric with enough precision to integrate electronic components such as sensors and memory devices into clothing. 

Ultimately, such "e-textiles" could be used to create shirts that act as antennas, bandages that tell your doctor how well a wound is healing, or even caps that sense activity in the brain.

“Now, for the first time, we’ve achieved the accuracy of printed metal circuit boards, so our new goal is to take advantage of the precision to incorporate receivers and other electronic components," said John Volakis, director of Ohio State's ElectroScience Laboratory.

The researchers used a standard tabletop sewing machine to embroider the e-textiles. The shape of the embroidery determines the operating frequency of the antenna or circuit.

One broadband antenna, for example, consists of more than half a dozen interlocking geometric shapes, each a little bigger than a fingernail, that form an intricate circle a few inches across. Each piece of the circle transmits energy at a different frequency, so together they cover a broad spectrum. That embroidery takes about 15 minutes to create and uses about 10 feet of the specialized thread, for a material cost of roughly 30 cents per antenna.

In tests, an embroidered spiral antenna measuring about six inches across transmitted signals at frequencies of 1 to 5 GHz with near-perfect efficiency, the researchers said, making it well-suited for broadband Internet and cellular communication.

A paper describing the researchers' results was published recently in the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters. Ohio State plans to license the technology for further development.

IDG Insider

PREVIOUS ARTICLE

« Lack of confidence proving to be real killer for women in technology

NEXT ARTICLE

More than 43,000 sign petition against U.S. encryption-breaking bill »
author_image
IDG News Service

The IDG News Service is the world's leading daily source of global IT news, commentary and editorial resources. The News Service distributes content to IDG's more than 300 IT publications in more than 60 countries.

  • Mail

Recommended for You

International Women's Day: We've come a long way, but there's still an awfully long way to go

Charlotte Trueman takes a diverse look at today’s tech landscape.

Trump's trade war and the FANG bubble: Good news for Latin America?

Lewis Page gets down to business across global tech

20 Red-Hot, Pre-IPO companies to watch in 2019 B2B tech - Part 1

Martin Veitch's inside track on today’s tech trends

Poll

Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?