At the end of last year, we wrote about the Nobel-prize winning material Graphene. Promising to change the dynamics of the smart fabrics space for the better, the article highlighted how the scientists from the Cambridge Graphene Centre (CGC) and Jiangnan University figured out how to incorporate Graphene in a way that would allow seamless integration between electronics and textiles.
I must admit, I first heard about graphene back in 2012 when researchers at the University of Exeter adapted graphene into something they called GraphExeter. It was only recently that I learnt that graphene has been around for 10 years. First discovered in 2002 by physics professors at the University of Manchester, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, the one atom thick ‘wonder material’ was so revolutionary that it went on to win the Nobel Prize in 2010.
Which such positive chatter surrounding this super material, it should come as no surprise that the fashion industry is experimenting with graphene. The first brand to hold court is London based fashion tech label CuteCircuit. Known for their Twitter dress worn by Nicole Scherzinger on the red carpet, CuteCircuit have now created a dress that pushes the boundaries of the textile and garment industry.
Created using a graphene composite that conducts electricity, the dress is lined with graphene-enhanced sensors, inbuilt LED lights, that are spread out throughout the garment’s top half of the dress. Designed to react to the heartbeat of the wearer, the dress was created using only small amounts of the rather expensive graphene. On their latest venture CuteCircuit co-founder Francesca Rosella, told CNN, “If you look under an electron microscope, you can see how the structure of graphene is made up of what looks like hexagonal crystals. We used that structure as a starting point to design the dress.” Paul Wiper, a research associate at the National Graphene Institute who worked with Rosella, added “There’s a lot of potential for graphene within the textile industry.”
Lightweight, conductive, flexible and thermal, graphene is an incredibly strong material. Pliable like rubber, graphene the ability to carry a thousand times more electricity than copper, 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.”
When it comes to designing intelligent clothing, graphene-based sensors can potentially enable quick and simple breast cancer detection. This is a powerful benefit that gives us a glimpse into the material’s full potential. With brands like CuteCircuit leading the way we can look forward to a future where graphene will most likely be incorporated into a variety of existing and emerging technologies. Watch this space!