In just three minutes, the laser-based process can produce a 10x10cm smart textile patch that’s waterproof, stretchable and readily integrated with energy harvesting technologies. The technology enables graphene supercapacitors to be laser printed directly onto textiles.
In a proof-of-concept, the researchers connected the supercapacitor with a solar cell, delivering an efficient, washable and self-powering smart fabric that overcomes the key drawbacks of existing e-textile energy storage technologies. The growing smart fabrics industry has diverse applications in wearable devices for the consumer, health care and defence sectors - from monitoring vital signs of patients, to tracking the location and health status of soldiers in the field, and monitoring pilots or drivers for fatigue.
“Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibres, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues,” explains Dr Litty Thekkakara, a researcher in RMIT’s School of Science.
“These electronic components can also suffer short-circuits and mechanical failure when they come into contact with sweat or with moisture from the environment. Our graphene-based supercapacitor is not only fully washable, it can store the energy needed to power an intelligent garment – and it can be made in minutes at large scale” she says. “By solving the energy storage-related challenges of e-textiles, we hope to power the next generation of wearable technology and intelligent clothing.”