Electronic and electric smart fibers, e-fibers, fibertronics, soft circuits
"The e-textile market is entering fast growth phase and will be worth $3 billion within the decade"
For about 70% of our time we are in contact with textiles and they are starting to become intelligent. This report is about the ultimate form of that - e-textiles based on inherently electronically or electrically-active woven e-fibers. These disruptive technologies will have an exponentially increasing market but with a slow start because they are so challenging. E-textiles vary from apparel to drapes, bandages and bed linen but most is in the laboratory not production. They will variously be able to sense, emit light, show changing images, heat, cool, change shape, compute and wirelessly communicate or harvest ambient energy to create electricity where needed, even diagnose and sometimes treat medical conditions.
E-textiles are the ultimate way of making the smart apparel rapidly being launched by Adidas, Reebock and Nike and the smart patches being rapidly adopted in healthcare. Conductive apparel already sold by many companies for many purposes will use e-textiles later. Here is a basis of subtle designer fashion as opposed to the popular but ugly smart apparel of today. For the scientist, there is much of interest, including provision of weavable forms of fiber optics, carbon nanotubes and inorganic nanorods. For now, priorities include stretchable fibers, notably functioning as photovoltaics and supercapacitors for energy harvesting and as stretchable interconnects between very small chip components in textiles.
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