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Smart and interactive textile structures

It's not the first time that I'm writing about smart textiles -- check here or there for previous stories. But today, let's look at the work of Lena Berglin, a Swedish PhD student who is creating multifunctional textiles based on smart materials. She already has developed an intelligent glove, capable of transmitting communication, and several garments for health monitoring including a tanktop, a cardigan and a belt that measure ECG, muscular activity and breathing frequency. Here is a short quote from Lena Berglin: 'I wanted to do something that gave a positive health effect and made life easier.' Read more...

It's not the first time that I'm writing about smart textiles -- check here or there for previous stories. But today, let's look at the work of Lena Berglin, a Swedish PhD student who is creating multifunctional textiles based on smart materials. She already has developed an intelligent glove, capable of transmitting communication, and several garments for health monitoring including a tanktop, a cardigan and a belt that measure ECG, muscular activity and breathing frequency. Here is a short quote from Lena Berglin: 'I wanted to do something that gave a positive health effect and made life easier.' Read more...

Lena Berglin's portrait

You can see on the left a portrait of Lena Berglin. (Credit: Ulf Nilsson) She's a PhD student in the Interaction Design Collegium (IDC) of Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg. She also is part of The Swedish School of Textiles located at the University of Borås.

Lena Berglin's communicating glove

You can see on the right a photo of Lena Berglin's communicating glove. (Credit: Jan Berg) You'll find much larger versions of these two photos by visiting this page at the University of Borås.

Here are more details about the health monitoring garments she created. "The cardigan was developed because it is easy to wear on top of other clothes. The garment then measures at the wrist, and the box can be stored in the cardigan pocket. The cuffs are woven according to a three layer principle and a small unit contains both the battery and transmitter. The ECG shirt will hopefully be commercially sold within a year. 'The American market is very interested. They want the technology and have a customer that is used to paying for health care,' said Berglin."

For her thesis, defended on November 25, 2008, Berglin divided current smart textiles in three groups. "'The first group is hybrids, which really means that the electronic components are sown or woven into the textile. Many people don't consider these smart textiles, but I call it the simplest form, because if the technology compoment is small enough, they work perfectly well.' Lena Berglin describes the other group where the fabric is the carrier of whatever reacts. It might be a network of electrodes being connected. The third group is the one she has dedicated most of her research to, the interactive smart textiles. The unifying theme of Lena Berglin's projects is electroactive textiles. With the help of metals she creates surfaces on the textiles, surfaces that transmit a current. The breathing monitoring textiles she has developed can, for example, be used for helping children born prematurely."

There's also a fourth group which she describes as the resource smart textiles of the future. Here are Berglin's explanations. "That is where I want to continue with my research. It is the new generation of multifunctional fibres that enable resource saving smart products, where everything is integrated into the fabric. We are looking at how to, through textiles, purify saltwater and make it drinkable, clean air and keep fabric cold on the outside and warm on the inside. In the hospital environment of the future you might not have to wear the ECG shirt, it might be positioned somewhere in the room and measure from there. We also want to integrate the technology into the fabric manufacturing process. That's why we at present are looking at the weaving system itself."

For more information, here is a link to the abstract of her thesis called "Interactive Textile Structures --Creating Multifunctional Textiles based on Smart Materials." Here is a first excerpt. "Smart Textile represents the next generation of textiles anticipated for use in several fashion, furnishing and technical textile applications. The term smart is used to refer to materials that sense and respond in a pre-defined manner to environmental stimuli. The degree of smartness varies and it is possible to enhance the intelligence further by combining these materials with a controlling unit, for example a microprocessor. As an interdisciplinary area Smart Textile includes design spaces from several areas; the textile design space, the information technology design space and the design space of material science."

And here is a second one. "This thesis addresses how Smart Textiles affect the textile design space; how the introduction of smart materials and information technology affects the creation of future textile products. The aim is to explore the convergence between textiles, smart materials and information technology and to contribute to providing a basis for future research in this area. The research method is based on a series of interlinked experiments designed through the research questions and the research objects. The experiments are separated into two different sections: interactive textile structures and health monitoring. The result is a series of basic methods for how interactive textile structures are created and a general system for health monitoring.

Berglin's thesis is a 200-page document which is not currently available online. Maybe it is, but I haven't found it. And I certainly hope she got her PhD...

Sources: Annie Andréasson, University of Borås, Sweden, November 25, 2008; and various websites

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