The smart fabrics space has just got that little bit more technological thanks to scientists from the Cambridge Graphene Centre (CGC) and Jiangnan University. They have successfully developed conductive cotton fabric laced with Graphene ink. What this means is that they have figured out a way of incorporating Graphene to cotton, which will allow seamless integration between electronics and textiles.
With the power to change how we view clothing, Graphene textile technology is the new material disrupting the smart textile world. So what is Graphene? Well Futurism.com defined it as a single atom-thick sheets of carbon that boast many impressive characteristics such as flexibility, conductivity, biocompatibility and many others. It is an innovative Nanotech material, derived from graphite with the kind of properties that make it a potential application in the textile industry. These properties include low density, high level of transparency, high electrical and conductivity, resistance, high thermal conductivity, strong cytotoxicity toward bacteria, impermeable to gases and water repellency. With high modulus of elasticity and a good resistance to deformation.
“It is an innovative nanotech material derived from graphite with the kind of properties that make it a potential application in the textile industry.”
We first heard about Graphene back in 2012 when researchers at the University of Exeter adapted Graphene into something they called GraphExeter. Transparent, lightweight and flexible, Dr Monica Craciun, lead researcher on the project, shared with The Creators Project, “GraphExeter could revolutionize the electronics industry. It outperforms any other carbon-based transparent conductor used in electronics and could be used for a range of applications, from solar panels to ‘smart’ T-shirts. We are very excited about the potential of this material and look forward to seeing where it can take the electronics industry in the future.”
Now fast forward four years later and it seems that Graphene is set to revolutionize the textile sector. With so much talk about how Graphene has the potential to replace synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon, lecturer in Graphene Technology, Dr Felice Torrisi explains, “Turning cotton fibres into functional electronic components can open to an entirely new set of applications from healthcare and wellbeing to the Internet of Things.”
“We should expect to see some of the first real Graphene-based products entering the market in the not too distant future.”
So who has taken that leap? Well, brands like Colmar, pioneers in the field of sportswear, have. Believing that Graphene is merely the beginning of a revolution in the world of sportswear, they launched a new collection this year that contained Graphene-based products. Their collection is made of a smart fabric, designed to allow tailor-made comfort whilst ensuring the ideal temperature for the wearer by acting as a filter between the body and the external environment. Colmar hopes that, using Graphene will significantly improve the overall performance of athletes, professionals and sports enthusiasts.
With brands, like Colmar, already investing in the new material, what does the future hold for what people are calling the new wonder material? Well, although it is still in its research phase, it has been reported that the European Union has already invested $1.3 billion in ‘The Graphene Flagship’, a consortium of academic and commercial researchers. There has also been whispers that the UK Government has provided £235 million ($296 million) to fund a Graphene research center. As for tech companies, there has been chatter that quite a few of them are investing in developing their understanding of the material. A great example is Samsung, who, according to BusinessKorea.co.kr, have already applied for 225 Graphene-related patents.
“We can look forward to a future where graphene will most likely be incorporated into a variety of existing and emerging technologies.”
Described as the most exciting material of the 21st century by Dr. James Hone of Columbia University, we should expect to see some of the first real Graphene-based products entering the market in the not too distant future. According to GrapheneEntrepreneur.com, they anticipate that the Graphene market, including material sales, will likely not surpass $30 million in 2016, but by the end of the decade the material sales could be a little bit more than $100 million.
Showing promise, not only in the design of intelligent clothing, but also in Graphene-based sensors potentially having the power to enable quick and simple breast cancer detection means that we have only seen a glimpse of the material’s full potential. As its potential grows, we can look forward to a future where Graphene will most likely be incorporated into a variety of existing and emerging technologies.