Embroidering batteries onto garments

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, led by materials chemist Trisha L. Andrew, developed a method to make a charge-storing system which can be embroidered onto any garment.

In the field of wearable devices, there is a lot of development to make them smaller and easier to carry and conceal. However, batteries and other kinds of charge storage are often still limiting components, being too large, too heavy or not flexible.

With their research, the team of Massachusetts Amherst basically created a thread-shaped battery. To make the device, they combine vapour-coated conductive threads with a polymer film. Additionally, they use a special sewing technique to create a flexible mesh of aligned electrodes onto a textile backing. The embroidered battery has a high ability to store charge for its size, as well as other characteristics that allow it to power wearable biosensors.

The new technique, according to the researchers, “opens the door for simply sewing circuits on self-powered smart garments.”

In earlier researcher, textile scientists have not opted for vapour-coating processes because of technical difficulties and high costs, but recently, research has shown that the technology can be scaled up and remain cost effective.

Currently, the team is working on incorporating the new embroidered charge-storage arrays with e-textile sensors and low-power microprocessors to build smart garments that can monitor a person’s gait and joint movements throughout the day.

Photos: Trisha L. Andrew