Transistors made out of cotton may lead to high-tech fashion

Cornell University scientists have discovered how to turn cotton into a high tech fabric.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

With the growing popularity of fitness devices, the ability to turn clothing into electronic devices may be coming soon.

Cornell fiber scientist Juan Hinestroza is part of a team of researchers who discovered how to turn cotton fibers into a high-tech fabric, that have electric properties of transistors similar to what you'd find in phones and TVs.

But what good are electronic clothes? Medical patients could wear smarter hospital gowns to keep tabs on their tracks around the hospital or athletes could have circuits built into their jerseys if they want a way to measure their fitness, according to a news release.

In the study, the researchers showed that they could make cotton behave like two types of transistors: organic electrochemical and organic field effect. By coating the cotton with a layer of gold nanoparticles, and then applying conductive or semiconductive coatings to the fiber, Hinestroza found that "the layers were so thin that the flexibility of the cotton fibers were preserved."

The study also showed that it's possible to create cotton-based circuits.

"Creating transistors from cotton fibers brings a new perspective to the seamless integration of electronics and textiles, enabling the creation of wearable electronic devices," Hinestroza said in a statement.

For instance, imagine if a dress is made with transistors in its fibers, so it could sense the wearer's body temperature.

The applications of electronic-based clothing, may go beyond fashion. Hinestroza envisions a day when we can build computers out of cotton fibers. The research was published in Organic Electronics.

If you think about it, fibers haven't changed much over the past thousands of years, even though we wear them everyday in our clothes.

I previously wrote about smarts fibers that can detect and analyze light, function like a camera, and produce sound. MIT researcher Yoel Fink's fiber research may one day show up in fibers that can measure your heart rate or let you know when you're having a blood clot. One of the first uses of these new generation fibers are in the hospital room: Doctors use it to perform precise laser surgery.

via Cornell University

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