You may remember the use of silver nanoparticles to kill odor-causing bacteria in socks and t-shirts. Now scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in England have discovered a new way to combine silver with fabrics to enable a wide range of wearable technologies that could make new health, fitness, and medical applications possible.
One big problem with using fabrics for WellTech devices is that it is difficult to make electrical conductors that are flexible and durable. Researchers have tried weaving silver nanowires into fabric, but this is a costly and difficult process. The NPL scientists have taken a different approach, where they coat the existing woven fibers with nano-layers of silver. The result is a fabric that is highly conductive, flexible, and rugged. It can be used to deliver power to sensors and other devices that may be embedded in a garment. The process can also be use to create embedded antennas to make it easy for WellTech devices to send and receive data. This could make it easy monitor patients continuously without being tethered by wires to supporting devices. It could also enable remote activation of treatments in response to monitored data, such as the delivery of insulin to a diabetic patient.
Affordable, lightweight, and durable circuits in fabrics could enable rapid advances across the board in the WellTech industry.