Cambridge team develops fully woven, smart textile display

A team of scientists in Cambridge has developed a fully woven smart textile display which could lead to a "whole new class of smart devices and systems".

The 46-inch woven smart display can be bent and rolled up

Cambridge team develops fully woven, smart textile display

Picture curtains that double up as an enormous TV. While it's hard to imagine, such a concept is a step closer to becoming a reality thanks to a research project by a team of international scientists at the University of Cambridge.

According to the university, the team of researchers has developed a “fully woven smart textile display that integrates active electronic, sensing, energy and photonic functions”. Manufactured using textile-based industrial processes, the functions are embedded directly into the fibres and yarns.

The team says the fabric could lead to innovations like TV curtains, energy-harvesting carpets and interactive, self-powered clothing and fabrics.

While smart textiles for lighting/display applications are nothing new, functionality, dimensions and shapes are limited by current manufacturing processes.

Using an entirely fibre-based manufacturing approach, the Cambridge team was able to produce a fully operational 46-inch smart textile lighting/display system (as pictured). The teams says it could lead to a “whole new class of smart devices and systems”.

Indeed, the smart textile display can detect touch, light, temperature and radio frequency signals. The team says it also “exhibits full freedom of form factors” i.e. it's flexible, allowing it to be bent and rolled up. And since it is manufactured the way it is, large rolls of the functional fabric could be produced.

“Our approach is built on the convergence of micro and nanotechnology, advanced displays, sensors, energy and technical textile manufacturing,” said Professor Jong min Kim, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who co-led the research with Dr Luigi Occhipinti and Professor Manish Chhowalla. “This is a step towards the full exploitation of sustainable, convenient e-fibres and e-textiles in daily applications. And it’s only the beginning.”

The researchers are now working with European collaborators to make the technology sustainable and usable for everyday objects.

The team's results appear in the journal Nature Communications.

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