Using textiles and fabrics for harvesting power, storing energy, and bio-sensing makes sense—after all, everyone wears a shirt. A team at the University of Massachusetts has developed a way to combine vapor-coated conductive threads with a polymer film, via a special sewing technique, to create a flexible mesh of aligned electrodes on a textile backing. The result is what they call a distributed micro-supercapacitor (MSC) that can store charge and thus power biosensors and related devices.
The team, led by Chemistry Professor Trisha L. Andrew (director of the UMass Wearable Electronics Lab), devised a process that creates porous, conducting polymer films on densely twisted yarns. These can then be swelled with electrolyte ions to maintain a charge-storage capacity per unit length, which is much higher than prior efforts achieved with dyed or extruded fibers. In this technique, conductive threads are vapor-coated with a p-doped conducting polymer film, which then can be sewn onto as a path onto stretchy textile.