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Future of silk in wearables

28 August 2017

Last few weeks I’ve been travelling through China. Eye opening, it was. Here is a timely example. These are images from a silk factory. 6 silkworm cocoons, heated in water, generating 6 km of thread, collected by hand (well thousands of hands). These threads constitute the starting point for weaving fabrics.

Fast forward to tomorrow. Now researchers from Tsinghua University in … China, are developing wearables made of silk: Scientists are feeding silkworms Graphene to make them produce strong and flexible materials that can also conduct electricity.Body sensors, which are usually made with semiconductors, have indeed shown great potential for monitoring human health. However, one problem is that strain sensors which measure changes in force cannot be highly stretchable and sensitive at the same time. Silk could overcome these problems as it is a natural material that is stronger than steel and more flexible than nylon. But silk doesn’t conduct electricity very well.

To address this challenge, Dr Zhang and colleagues at Tsinghua University in China sought to find a way to boost the conductivity of silk so it could be successfully used in body-sensing devices.In one approach, they treated the silk in an inert gas environment with temperatures ranging from 600°C - 3,000°C.Using this technique, the scientists have already developed strain sensors, pressure sensors and a dual-mode sensor capable of measuring temperature and pressure simultaneously.

In the other approach, the team fed either graphene or carbon nanotubes to silkworms. Some of these nanoparticles were naturally incorporated into the silk produced by the worms. So far, this method hasn’t produced electrically conductive fibers, but the researchers are still experimenting with this technique and are hopeful they can make it work. This is an example of thousands of fundamental technology developments Healthskouts watches closely.

#fashiontech #fabrics #wearables #mHealth

Further read at DailyMail

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