Smart clothes and wearable devices with supercapacitor yarn


UNIVERSITY of Wollongong researchers have developed a strong and flexible yarn which can conduct and store electricity, with potential applications as wearable medical devices and smart clothes.

Researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at UOW worked with an international team of engineers to develop a novel way to turn small fibres into powerful batteries with ultrafast charge and discharge rates.

The result is a flexible, wearable supercapacitor yarn. With the width approximately equal to that of a human hair, the yarn is made by weaving two nano-materials together to form a super-strong carbon nanotube.

Hundreds of layers of nanotubes, which are coated with small molecules of plastic, are then woven together with a thin metal wire, and the assembly is spun into a yarn, according to ACES Executive Research Director and Australian Research Council laureate fellow, Professor Gordon Wallace.

"The highly functional fibres can be integrated into complex 2D and 3D structures using [our] integrated knitting braiding machines. These facilities were recently commissioned as part of an Australian National Fabrication Facility Materials Node expansion”, Professor Wallace said.

The yarn’s flexibility means it can be knitted or sewn into clothing to power wearable electronics, which could be used to monitor movement during training or physiotherapy or to power high-tech fashion accessories.

It can also be integrated into automotive components, and the strong mechanical properties can in fact strengthen the composites used in that industry.