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Metallisation of Textiles to make Urban living for Older people more Independent Fashionable

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MATUROLIFE (Metallisation of Textiles to make Urban living for Older people more Independent Fashionable)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2021-05-31

There is an ageing population in Europe but also globally and this has led to a greater demand for assistive technology which can help older-adults and carers lead more independent lives. However, in many cases, this type of technology has been developed with little consultation with older-adults and, although functional, it is often not desirable to the end-user and therefore abandonment rates can be high.

The MATUROLIFE project has responded to this issue by putting people at the centre of the design process and designing for desirability.

MATUROLIFE aimed to use E-Textiles to enable more discreet embedding of electronic functionality in assistive technology, ensuring ease of use and to reduce the stigma that can sometimes be associated with the use of assistive technology. The consortium set itself extremely ambitious and challenging target of producing three assistive technology prototypes: one in footwear, one in furniture and one in clothing.

To achieve these ambitious goals required a truly multi-disciplinary team with skills in creative art and design, electrochemistry, materials science, electronic engineering and IoT.

Twenty partners were assembled from across nine European countries including RTOs, SMEs as well as NGO’s representing older people.
1. Design Development
Ten Co-creation workshops were held in the nine countries represented in the consortium with a total of 94 participants ranging in age from 60-95. The workshops were carried out over two phases: the first being more exploratory in nature whilst the second focused on concept development.

The older adults who participated in these workshops engaged in the design process with enthusiasm and total commitment and there inputs were invaluable.

From the co-creation workshops three concept prototypes emerged:

- Clothing that could monitor and regulate body temperature

- Footwear that can monitor gait and posture, give early indications of instability, and potentially predict falls

- Furniture that can detect the user, the length of time they are sat in the chair to aid sleep patterns, potentially monitor breathing and heart rate.

These concept prototypes were critiqued in workshops where representatives from each consortium member discussed the concept prototypes from their own particular perspective.

2. Materials Development
The approach taken in MATUROLIFE was the use of selective electroless metallisation of the textile. The textile retains the properties of a textile i.e. bendable, flexible and the feel and drape are largely unaffected. The metallised areas can act as electronic connectors, circuitry, sensors, conduct heat etc.

Electroless copper plating requires the use of a catalyst to initiate the deposition reaction. It is quite remarkable that by the project end a printable, catalytic ink based on copper nanoparticles had been developed that could be printed with good resolution and which subsequently initiated electroless copper deposition.

As the selective metallisation process was based on copper it was also necessary to protect the copper from oxidation by the effects of the environment and other potential oxidants
Intensive work was carried out on identifying and optimising a suitable protective coating for the copper deposits using both organic and inorganic materials.

By the end of the MATUROLIFE project not only had a novel copper nanoparticle based catalytic ink been developed and the printing parameters optimised but also the process had been scaled up and installed at the industrial facility of MATUROLIFE partner. In this pilot line e-textiles which were subsequently integrated into the MATUROLIFE prototypes were produced demonstrating the industrial scalability of the ‘print and plate’ process.

3. Production of MATUROLIFE prototypes and integration of selectively metallised textiles
Building on the insights gained from the co-creation workshops, and their further development in the consortium workshops the prototypes were now produced integrating the MATUROLIFE e-textiles.

4. Capturing and utilisation the prototype data
All three prototypes were developed with apps. where the data captured by the prototype could be fed to a cloud based ‘big data platform’ architecture and then converted to useful information for the end-user or their carer.

5. Testing
The final prototypes went through a final user-testing programme. Originally this was planned to be face-to-face with older-adults who participated in the original co-creation workshops. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was not possible and so a programme of online testing was designed and carried out.

6. Dissemination and communication
The project achieved impressive academic outputs having published 11 peer reviewed journal articles with another 7 in preparation.

7. Exploitation
The MATUROLIFE project carried out a number of activities to promote exploitation of the project outputs. For example, road-mapping exercises utilised the expertise and background of the MATUROLIFE consortium partners but more also external experts. The results of these events were captured using various business tools, for example a value proposition canvas.
The approach of using a co-creation, iterative and user centric design approach to developing AT concept prototypes is entirely novel and has resulted in three prototype concept designs in Clothing, Footwear and Furniture in the 1st reporting period, which are progressing towards prototypes that will be tested by recruited participants in the 2nd reporting period. The fabrics/textiles have been selected for sustainability and recyclability. Metallisation of conductive tracks has adopted novel selective techniques in the synthesis and formulation of chemistry and their novel application techniques onto fabrics/textiles incorporating novel protective coatings. The overall holistic approach is entirely beyond state of the art and will result in designs and creative solutions that are:

• Higher added-value: Addressing the under-use and abandonment of AT by older people.
• Better performing: Truly multi-functional metallised material with the feel and comfort of a textile which can be twisted, stretched and washed without loss of performance. Even more functionality will be achieved by using final finishes and functional dyes on the textile which will make the textiles respond to external stimuli such as sweat pH and body temperature.
• Sustainable: MATUROLIFE will employ sustainable design principles using materials that are from renewable resources, which can be recycled and have a low environmental impact.
• Versatile: pioneering research at CU has shown that polyesters, cottons, linen, lycra, viscose, silk and nylon can be successfully metallised using electroless copper. This will give the designers the versatility to work with a wide range of textiles and fabrics.
• Improved health, independence and security: As a result of the emotional and co- design process, AT solutions will be designed that are usable and accepted by the intended user group, and therefore the likelihood of appropriate product usage increases. Consequently, healthy behaviours and outcomes are expected as valuable health monitoring information is provided to support the independence, security and care of older adults.
Healthy, Fashionable and Urban Living
Design Management Approach