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Research shows new methods of graphene use in wearable textiles

The University of Manchester has developed a simple and cost-effective method to manufacture graphene-based wearable electronic textiles on an industrial scale. This could easily be scaled for many real-life applications, such as sportswear, military gear, and medical clothing.

Graphene is predicted to be one of the most prominent materials in wearable e-textiles. The new technique could allow graphene e-textiles to be manufactured at commercial production rates of 150 meters per minute. In the new method, the researchers have reversed the previous process of coating textiles with graphene-based materials. Conventionally, the textiles are first treated with graphene oxide, and then the graphene oxide is reduced to its functional form of reduced graphene oxide. Instead, the researchers first reduced the graphene oxide in solution and then coated the textiles with the reduced form.

By making coating the ultimate step, it becomes possible to use a coating technique termed padding, which is currently the most commonly used method of applying functional finishes to textiles in the textile industry. For instance, water-repellent and wrinkle-free clothing are often made by padding.

E-textiles made by a laboratory-scale pad-dry unit, exhibit excellent electrical and mechanical characteristics. The reduced graphene oxide forms a uniform coating around the individual cotton fibers, which results in good electric conductivity, tensile strength, breathability, flexibility, and overall comfort of the fabric.