Scientists have recently developed thin, flexible wires with silver that may find potential application in comfortable wearable electronics and smart textiles. A group of researchers at China’s Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications have built a simple, scalable, and inexpensive technique to produce conductive fibers with good mechanical strength, high conductivity, and uniform morphology.
Owing to capillary actions of fibers including nylon, cotton, and polyester yarns, the solution containing nanowires made of silver is readily absorbed in the capillary tunnels. The silver nanowires are then evenly spread onto the fibers via evaporation-induced flow and a capillary-accelerated self-assembly process, which is in situ seen by the optical microscopic measurement.
As the newly developed flexible and stretchable conductor exhibits good mechanical strength as well as excellent conductivity and uniform morphology, it is promising for use in smart wearable devices and fabrics, according to the researchers.
The device is described in paper to be featured in the upcoming issue of the journal NANO. Currently, conductive fibers are metal film coated yarn or metal wires including copper and stainless steel wires that are stiff and brittle. It is challenging for these wires to meet the growing demand for comfort and flexibility in smart textiles.
In the recent times, smart textiles integrated with electronics such as LED, sensor, battery, transistor, and supercapacitors have drawn significant attention. Conductive yarns or fibers with the properties of connecting different electronic devices, play an important role in smart fabrics or wearable technologies.
Conductive nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes, metal nanomaterials, and graphene with high conductivity and excellent mechanical properties, solution process, and feasibility of large-scale production are gaining increasing popularity as a new type of key components for conductive fibers.
Continued efforts are made to design and fabricate conductive nanomaterials into conductive fibers, using several technologies such as electrospinning, vapor deposition, and spray coating methods.
According to researchers, despite the potential progress, it is still a challenge to produce low-cost conductive fibers with high flexibility as well as electrical conductivity.